Hoi-Ying Holman in her laboratory

Hoi-Ying Holman in her laboratory. (Photo credit: Berkeley Lab)

It turns out your skin is crawling with single-celled microorganisms – ­and they’re not just bacteria. A study by a researcher at Berkeley Lab’s Earth & Environmental Sciences Area (EESA) and the Medical University of Graz has found that the skin microbiome also contains archaea, a type of extreme-loving microbe, and that the amount of it varies with age.

The researchers conducted both genetic and chemical analyses of samples collected from human volunteers ranging in age from 1 to 75. They found that archaea (pronounced ar-KEY-uh) were most abundant in subjects younger than 12 and older than 60. Their study has been published in Scientific Reports (a Nature journal) in an article titled, “Human age and skin physiology shape diversity and abundance of Archaea on skin.

“The skin microbiome is usually dominated by bacteria,” said Hoi-Ying Holman, director of the Berkeley Synchrotron Infrared Structural Biology (BSISB) Program, EESA scientist and a senior author on the paper. “Most of the scientific attention has been on bacteria, because it’s easier to detect. Based on the literature, six years ago we didn’t even know that archaea existed on human skin. Now we’ve found they’re part of the core microbiome and are an important player on human skin.”

Read the full press release at the Berkeley Lab News Center here.