Since the balance of the scalp microbiome is related to cosmetic and clinical dermatological issues like dandruff, hairloss and dysbiose conditions, the analysis of the scalp microbiome is important for the development of an appropriate treatment for these issues. For some products, a scalp microbiome analysis might be necessary to show the efficacy of a product, for example in case of developing an anti-dandruff shampoo, or the development of prebiotics or probiotics in relation to the scalp microbiome. For other products, a scalp microbiome analysis might be required to prove that a product is microbiome-friendly, which might be relevant for example for hair dyes and hairstyling products.

The scalp microbiome

The scalp microbiome consists of a unique population of microbes. Core bacterial species are Cutibacterium acnes (as biofilm in the sebaceous follicle) and Staphylococcus epidermidis (in the outer 3-10 layers of the stratified epithelium). Important yeast species in the scalp microbiome are different variants of Malassezia. Some of these yeas species are healthy members of the core scalp microbiome. Others, like M. restricta, M. globosa and M. furfur, are associated with dandruff, and treatment with antifungal agents has been shown to have a long-lasting effect against dandruff.

Besides bacteria and yeasts, a common inhabitant of the scalp is the hair follicle mite, Demodex folliculorum. This little bug is ~0.5 mm in size and lives in the hair follicles and sebaceous glands, mainly around the nose and in the eyebrows, where it feeds on the sebum.

A balance in the scalp microbiome appears to be correlated to the scalp health (Polak-Witka et al., 2019). Scalp epidermal cells can produce antimicrobial peptides to control pathogenic microorganisms. Some of these are constitutively expressed, others are induced by the presence of C. acnes. Also, S. epidermidis and S. hominis can produce antimicrobial components that inhibit colonization by pathogenic S. aureus, an example of how the good combats the bad. This balance is however dependent on a lot of factors, and in fact sometimes the good can help the bad too (e.g. Cutibacterium species inducing aggregation of S. aureus).

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Scalp Microbiome Analysis

Our approach for scalp microbiome analysis

Study design & expert advice

For the initial phase of research projects and clinical studies, we offer consultancy and support for project and study design. Our team includes a number of experienced PhD-level experts, who can advise you regarding the design of your research project and/or clinical trial, the optimal sampling methods, practical aspects regarding storage and logistics and the most appropriate technical approach.

Sampling, shipping and storage

Scalp sampling is generally done using NaCl prewetted swabs. Other sampling methods, such as tape strips, are not very useful for scalp studies. It is important that a dedicated sampling area is used, which is similar for all involved patients and volunteers. Of course, we can advise you about the instructions on the sampling for the involved nurses. We can also supply all materials for storage and shipping with stabilizing buffers that allow for shipment at room temperature. Upon understanding the aim of the project, we can present our advice on study design & size and sample collection procedure.

Fully automated 16S rRNA and ITS gene-based profiling

We offer a complete microbial community analysis service, including fully automated DNA/RNA extraction from the skin samples. By using PCR and NGS technology we can determine the composition of bacteria, Archaea and fungi in your sample. Standard solutions for microbial profiling include 16S and/or ITS amplicon analysis for taxonomic classification and relative frequencies.

Quantification & tracking of specific strains within the microbiome using qPCR

Using a qPCR approach, we can measure changes in the abundance of specific strains within the skin microbiome. We offer this service including project design and performing the assays. Due to the quantitative method that is used, we can deliver the absolute abundance of the strains that are analyzed.

Shotgun metagenomics for species level identification and functional analysis

With our state-of-the-art shotgun metagenomics pipeline, we offer a full analysis service, including quality control of the data, metagenome assembly and generation of tables that describe the abundance of different functional units and pathways across different samples. To this end, we use an in-house, improved analysis suite that includes metagenome assembly, gene prediction, gene catalogue creation and annotation, as well as abundance estimation of annotated genes and other functional units.

Data visualizatoin & interpretation

Interactive data visualization tool on BaseClear’s proprietary Genome Explorer browser including basic biostatical analysis options (e.g. PCA, RDA). Data interpretation to support your ‘microbiome friendly’-claim

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Meet Radhika Bongoni!

Radhika is our Head of Business Development. She is specialised in microbiome analysis and regulatory affairs and its applications in Human Health, Personal Care and Animal Nutrition. Radhika received her Ph.D. in Food technology from Wageningen University and an MBA from Tias School for Business & Society. With techno-commercial expertise, she is involved in business growth and market penetration by fostering relationships with partners. Prior to BaseClear, Radhika was responsible for establishing dietary supplements market in western Europe, India, South Africa and Russia.

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