This study investigated the effects of artificial tanning beds on the microbial community of the human skin. The human skin has hundreds of species of microorganisms living on it. Among these microorganisms are large numbers of bacterial species called normal flora that live in a symbiotic relationship with our body. Through the process of indoor tanning, one exposes their skin (and their normal flora) to unknown concentrations of ultraviolet (UV) light, damaging bacterial DNA and causing cell death. Ten healthy test subjects were swabbed before and after tanning sessions to isolate normal skin flora. Sessions increased in time exposure throughout the month but maintained bed intensity by using the same bed type and setting. To observe UV resistance, we exposed isolates from varying times in the month to UV light using a replica plating technique. The results showed the selected skin flora building resistance to UV throughout the month. 16S rRNA gene sequencing of beginning of the month and end of the month skin flora isolates confirmed that the primary skin resident studied (Staphylococcus spp.) retained its genetic identity. The results confirm the hypothesis that during tanning treatment one artificially selects a flora with a higher resistance to UV light.
Pictured below is the poster I presented at the 2008 Wentz Spring Research Symposium at Oklahoma State University Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Wentz foundation allowed me the intellectual freedom, through funding, to conceptualize this project from grant proposal to project completion.