DermaMedics® Science and Technology

DermaMedics was founded in 2011 to commercialize the discoveries made in the research laboratory of the company’s founder, Dr. Bryan Fuller, while he was a professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in the College of Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. His research for over 30 years has been focused in two areas: 1) understanding the cellular events that control human pigmentation (tanning), and 2) identifying the biochemical events that are involved in skin inflammation and skin aging. His research was funded by NIH, NSF, and by many cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies. The result of his lengthy research career has been the issuance of over 20 patents both in the U.S. and worldwide.

Dr. Fuller’s interest in identifying natural compounds that could effectively treat skin diseases was the result of watching his father battle psoriasis. As is the case with almost all inflammatory dermatology diseases, the “go to” drugs of choice for treating psoriasis, eczema, and other forms of dermatitis have always been corticosteroids. And while they are somewhat effective, they cannot be used long term because of their potential negative side effects. While watching his father go through various treatments for psoriasis, Dr. Fuller decided that he would search for natural compounds that could effectively treat his dad’s psoriasis but could do so without causing any negative side effects.  To conduct this research Dr. Fuller’s research laboratory developed a “bioactive screening program” that was similar to that used by pharmaceutical companies to search for new drugs.

In order to develop a screening program to identify natural compounds that could block skin inflammation, one first has to understand what specific events occur in the skin that cause skin inflammation and skin damage. As you can imagine, unraveling all of the cellular pathways in the skin that are responsible for inflammatory skin diseases is extremely complex and beyond the scope of this discussion. However, the cartoon below provides a glimpse into the events that go on in the skin that cause inflammation. 

If we just think about what the sun does to our skin when we go outdoors, we can follow the  “inflammation roadmap” above to get an idea of how the UV radiation from the sun triggers inflammation and causes a sunburn complete with skin redness, swelling and pain. The UV radiation from the sun enters the skin and its energy “activates” cells in the epidermis (keratinocytes). This activation causes keratinocytes to produce and secrete a variety of inflammatory hormone-like substances into the skin. These “inflammatory mediators” include “cytokines”, “chemokines”, and prostaglandins, to mention just a few. Without worrying about these names, we can see from the cartoon that UV radiation causes keratinocytes in the epidermis to produce four “inflammatory mediators” that are circled:    IL-1, TNF-alpha, IL-8 and PGE-2. So how do these 4 “inflammatory mediators” cause what we experience as sunburn?

  1. IL-1 and TNF-alpha activate nerve fibers in the skin causing sunburn
  2. TNF-alpha also helps increase the release of histamine. Histamine then activates nerves in the skin causing itching and swelling.
  3. The nerves activated by histamine release Substance P which goes back to mast cells and causes MORE histamine release.
  4. PGE-2 increases dilation of blood vessels in the skin resulting in skin redness and swelling.
  5. IL-8 helps recruit immune cells into the sunburned skin and when these cells get into the skin they cause more inflammation and skin damage.

As you can see, these 4 troublesome “inflammatory mediators” cause the symptoms of pain, redness and swelling we’re all too familiar with when we get a sunburn. Of course, when we get a sunburn, what we don’t see right away is the damage the sun-induced inflammation is causing to the integrity of our skin. The sun destroys collagen, causes clumping of elastin fibers, kills normal skin cells, and can transform skin cells into cancer cells. The occurrence of skin cancers like basal and squamous cell carcinoma and the increasing incidence of melanoma are largely caused by too much sun exposure.

The purpose of this brief discussion of the inflammatory “roadmap” in the skin is to show how complicated it is and how many inflammatory “hormone-like” mediators are involved in inflammatory skin problems. For example, we just saw how TNF-alpha is involved in the sunburn response, but in addition to this, TNF-alpha is a major participant in psoriasis. In fact, many of the current “biologic” therapies to treat psoriasis (e.g. Humira®) work because they inhibit TNF-alpha. 

Once Dr. Fuller had developed a “roadmap” of the inflammatory events that occur in the skin, he could then design a “screening protocol” to look for compounds found in nature that could block one or more of the inflammatory events in the skin. Since TNF-alpha, IL-1 and PGE-2 play a major role in many inflammatory skin problems, it seemed logical to try to find natural compounds that could block the production and/or action of these 3 inflammatory mediators. In addition to these 3 mediators, the actual screening platform that was used in Dr. Fuller’s lab screened natural compounds for their effects on over 20 different inflammatory mediators.

The end result of this 4 year screening program was the discovery of a “family” of “super antioxidant” compounds that were potent inhibitors of inflammatory mediators, including PGE-2, TNF-alpha and IL-1.

Once this discovery was made, patents were filed to protect their use in topical dermatology products, including Rx, OTC and cosmetic skin care products. These patents have issued in the U.S. and worldwide. For those interested in reviewing the patents, they can be found on the USPTO website (https://www.uspto.gov/ ). The patent numbers are:

  1. 10,869,822; Compositions for treatment of dermatological diseases and conditions and methods of use thereof.
  2. 9,980,887; Compositions for use in treatment of hyperpigmentation and methods of use thereof.
  3. 9,622,950; Compositions for use in treatment of dermatologicals diseases and conditions.
  4. 9,616,006; Methods and compositions for treating dermatological diseases and conditions.

Through licensing agreements, DermaMedics makes the use of this patented “super antioxidant” technology to pharmaceutical drug companies that are developing topical drugs to treat skin diseases. In addition, the same “super antioxidant” compounds that are protected by our patents are incorporated into each skin care product DermaMedics makes. Because of our worldwide patents no other company can incorporate these natural antioxidant compounds into their own products. Only DermaMedics products contain this technology.