Research by Unilever, IBM Research and the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) indicates that vitamin B3 could add efficacy in hygiene products by boosting the body’s natural defenses.
A collaboration between a team of microbiologists and skin scientists at Unilever, and quantum computing and artificial intelligence experts at IBM Research and the Science Technology Facilities Council Hartree Centre, shows that niacinamide, also known as vitamin B3, could boost both the numbers and effectiveness of the skin’s natural antimicrobial peptides (AMPs).
Using computing technology at the Hartree Centre, and data from studies by Unilever scientists, IBM and STFC created computational models of bacterial and human cell membranes as well as vitamin B3 and AMPs. Simulations were run using these models and showed the vitamin molecules could interact with AMPs and bacterial membranes, and how vitamin B3 could boost AMP activity.
According to Unilever, these simulations provide insights that could become the foundation for new skin hygiene products and cosmetics that use niacinamide and possibly other peptide-boosting materials while still complying with applicable regulations.
This discovery was first made by Unilever scientists in India several years ago who identified that vitamin B3 could trigger an increase in the amount of AMPs produced naturally by the skin. And that this AMP-boosting effect could provide a performance advantage.
The ingredient subsequently was added to products such as hand sanitizers to improve effectiveness. Laboratory studies revealed the vitamin also increased the potency of the native AMPs, making them more effective.
“We wanted to understand if the cooperative effect between vitamin B3 and natural antimicrobial peptides could help us to develop products that would complement the skin’s natural defenses against harmful bacteria,” said Michael Hoptroff, Ph.D., of Unilever R&D. “Our experiments, combined with the STFC and IBM computational simulation work, have shown that this is indeed a possibility.”
“AI and computer learning could predict even more effective boosters that we are not aware of and that might need to be created by synthetic chemists,” said Amitabha Majumdar, Ph.D., senior research scientist at Unilever. “That is the incredible power of machine learning and AI: it can see connections in the data that we cannot and deliver results that we were looking for.”