New molecular skin mapping software promises to be useful in cosmetics industry

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cosmetics Chemistry

New molecular skin mapping software promises to be useful in cosmetics industry
Researchers from the University of California San Diego and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory teamed up to develop the new technology, and late last year, published details of their method in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Nature Protocols.

The article, entitled “3D molecular cartography using LC–MS facilitated by Optimus and 'ili software,” was published online December 21st by researchers Ivan Protsyuk, Alexey V Melnik, Louis-Felix Nothias, Luca Rappez, Prasad Phapale, Alexander A Aksenov, Amina Bouslimani, Sergey Ryazanov, Pieter C Dorrestein, and Theodore Alexandrov.

The team developed their standardized method for microbe mapping after first establishing how to best gather samples, understand each sample’s composition, and evaluate the findings. Once their mapping strategy became reliably useful, the research team built it out into a more user-friendly tool.   

Now, their method and software is expected to have applications in multiple industries including forensics, cosmetics, ecology, and agriculture, according to a press item from the University of California San Diego.

And as the article abstract explains, “detecting and characterizing these molecular traces is necessary to understand the environmental impact on human health and disease, and to decipher complex molecular interactions between humans and other species, particularly microbiota.”


The team’s article plainly explains the protocols they followed and open-source software used to map microbes on surfaces including skin or the entire body. They also review several of the experiments they ran once they optimized the mapping technique.

“The protocol includes step-by-step procedures for sample collection and processing, liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry (LC–MS)-based metabolomics, quality control (QC), molecular identification using MS/MS, data processing, and visualization with 3D models of the sampled environment,” ​according to the abstract.


The team’s work showcases how readily molecules are transferred among products, people, and objects.

One study included in the published article “applied molecular cartography for the exploration of individualized lifestyle chemistry from phones and were able to link phones to the type of hygiene and beauty products, diet, medical status, and even the location of their owners to create a composite lifestyle sketch of the owner,”​ write the researchers.

And perhaps of particular interest to the personal care and cosmetics industry, “when the team previously used this approach to map the molecules on the skin of two volunteers, they found prevalent traces of sunscreen and other hygiene products, even three days after they’d last been used," ​Heather Buschman points out in her coverage of the research for the UC San Diego News Center.

Find the researcher's full article on Nature Protocols here​.

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