Spectral characterization of a blue light-emitting micro-LED platform on skin-associated microbial chromophores

Serrage, Hannah J. and Eling, Charlotte J. and Alves, Pedro U. and Xie, Enyuan and McBain, Andrew J. and Dawson, Martin D. and O’Neill, Catherine and Laurand, Nicolas (2024) Spectral characterization of a blue light-emitting micro-LED platform on skin-associated microbial chromophores. Biomedical Optics Express, 15 (5). pp. 3200-3215. ISSN 2156-7085 (https://doi.org/10.1364/boe.522867)

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The therapeutic application of blue light (380 – 500nm) has garnered considerable attention in recent years as it offers a non-invasive approach for the management of prevalent skin conditions including acne vulgaris and atopic dermatitis. These conditions are often characterised by an imbalance in the microbial communities that colonise our skin, termed the skin microbiome. In conditions including acne vulgaris, blue light is thought to address this imbalance through the selective photoexcitation of microbial species expressing wavelength-specific chromophores, differentially affecting skin commensals and thus altering the relative species composition. However, the abundance and diversity of these chromophores across the skin microbiota remains poorly understood. Similarly, devices utilised for studies are often bulky and poorly characterised which if translated to therapy could result in reduced patient compliance. Here, we present a clinically viable micro-LED illumination platform with peak emission 450 nm (17 nm FWHM) and adjustable irradiance output to a maximum 0.55 ± 0.01 W/cm2, dependent upon the concentration of titanium dioxide nanoparticles applied to an accompanying flexible light extraction substrate. Utilising spectrometry approaches, we characterised the abundance of prospective blue light chromophores across skin commensal bacteria isolated from healthy volunteers. Of the strains surveyed 62.5% exhibited absorption peaks within the blue light spectrum, evidencing expression of carotenoid pigments (18.8%, 420–483 nm; Micrococcus luteus, Kocuria spp.), porphyrins (12.5%, 402–413 nm; Cutibacterium spp.) and potential flavins (31.2%, 420–425 nm; Staphylococcus and Dermacoccus spp.). We also present evidence of the capacity of these species to diminish irradiance output when combined with the micro-LED platform and in turn how exposure to low-dose blue light causes shifts in observed absorbance spectra peaks. Collectively these findings highlight a crucial deficit in understanding how microbial chromophores might shape response to blue light and in turn evidence of a micro-LED illumination platform with potential for clinical applications.