Purified Acidic Sophorolipid Biosurfactants in Skincare Applications: An Assessment of Cytotoxic Effects in Comparison with Synthetic Surfactants Using a 3D In Vitro Human Skin Model

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Abstract

Acidic sophorolipids (Acidic SL), congeners of sophorolipid biosurfactants, offer a potential alternative to synthetic sodium lauryl ether sulphate (SLES) in skincare applications. However, major challenges associated with the laboratory-based investigations of the cytotoxic effects of Acidic SL have been the utilisation of impure and/or poorly characterised congeners as well as the use of monolayers of skin cells in in vitro assays. While the former limitation makes glycolipids less attractive for use in academic research and skincare applications, the latter does not provide an accurate representation of the in vivo human skin. The present study, therefore, for the first time, assessed the cytotoxic effects of 96% pure Acidic SL on a 3D in vitro skin model in comparison with SLES, with the aim of investigating a natural alternative to synthetic surfactants for potential use in skincare applications. The 3D in vitro skin model was colonised with Staphylococcus epidermidis for 12 h, and afterwards treated with either Acidic SL or SLES at 100 μg mL−1 for a further 12 h. Subsequently, the cytotoxic effects of Acidic SL in comparison with SLES were assessed using a combination of microbiology, molecular biology techniques, immunoassays, and histological analyses. It was demonstrated that Acidic SL had no deleterious effects on the viability of S. epidermidis, tissue morphology, filaggrin expression, and the production of inflammatory cytokines in comparison to SLES. These findings, in conjunction with the possibility to produce Acidic SL from cheaper renewable natural resources, demonstrate that Acidic SL could offer a potential sustainable alternative to synthetic surfactants.
Original languageEnglish
Article number985
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalFermentation
Volume9
Issue number11
Early online date18 Nov 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished online - 18 Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding
This work was supported by a Vice Chancellors Research Scholarship awarded to S.A.A. by Ulster University through NICHE. Additional support was obtained from Invest Northern Ireland, U.K., proof of concept grant number 826.

Keywords

  • sophorolipids
  • synthetic surfactants
  • cytotoxicity
  • skin irritation
  • ecotoxicity skincare
  • sustainability
  • 3D in vitro skin model

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