Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Skin's Acid Coating: Researchers Explain Its Origin And How It Maintains Skin Integrity

Date:
August 17, 2001
Source:
University Of California - San Francisco
Summary:
Your skin is coated with acid. While that might sound disturbing, the mild acidity of the skin's surface actually helps to maintain the strength and cohesiveness of the skin. Now researchers at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center have discovered where this acidity comes from, and they suggest how it may help to hold the skin together.

Your skin is coated with acid. While that might sound disturbing, the mild acidity of the skin's surface actually helps to maintain the strength and cohesiveness of the skin. Now researchers at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center have discovered where this acidity comes from, and they suggest how it may help to hold the skin together.

The findings, published in the latest issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, may be used to develop therapies for skin problems such as psoriasis.

For decades scientists have known that the outer layers of the skin are about as acidic as a bowl of crushed tomatoes. This acidity was believed to help ward off infections by preventing the growth of bacteria. But the source of all this acid and how it helped to maintain the skin's strength and integrity, remained a mystery.

In their latest study, Joachim Fluhr, MD, a postdoctoral research fellow at the SFVAMC and UCSF, and his colleagues lead by SFVAMC dermatologist Peter Elias, MD, a UCSF professor of dermatology, tested the hypothesis that the acid is produced when enzymes break down fat-like molecules in skin cells, called phospholipids, into smaller acid-tipped fat molecules called fatty acids.

To test this theory, the researchers used a hairless breed of mice and treated patches of their skin with a chemical that blocks the conversion of phospholipids to fatty acids. They then observed what effect this treatment had on the skin.

The treated skin quickly lost its acidity, and this change also had a negative effect on the skin's integrity, Fluhr said. Treated patches of skin were more susceptible to evaporation and drying than untreated skin, he said.

Furthermore, the reduced acidity also made the skin less cohesive. When the researchers repeatedly applied strips of adhesive tape to the skin, they found that significantly more protein stuck to the tape from the inhibitor treated skin than from normal skin.

"We have shown clearly that the skin is generating the acid as it converts phospholipids into fatty acids, one of the natural steps in the formation of the skin barrier. Blocking this conversion has a marked effect on the acidity as well as the skin's integrity and cohesiveness," Fluhr said.

Other experiments suggested a possible explanation for how acidity might help to preserve the skin's integrity. By examining skin samples under a confocal microscope, they found that skin treated with inhibitor drugs had fewer desmosomes, which act like staples to fasten skin cells to one another.

"The protease enzymes that break apart these desmosomes are sensitive to the pH, or acidity, of the skin. So it makes sense that when the pH becomes more acidic, these enzymes are activated to break apart the desmosomes, allowing skin cells to be shed more easily," said Elias.

The findings in the study could aid the development of drugs to treat diseases in which the skin's acid production is out of balance. One example might be psoriasis, in which skin cells are too cohesive and pile up on the skin's surface, Fluhr said. "It may be that by artificially adjusting the skin's surface acidity, we can optimize its barrier function and promote improvements in skin health," he said.

Co-authors on this study included: Jack Kao, SFVAMC dermatology researcher; Sung Ahn, MD; Kenneth Feingold, MD, SFVAMC physician and UCSF professor of medicine; and Mahendra Jain, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, University of Delaware.

The San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been a primary affiliate of University of California, San Francisco since 1974. The UCSF School of Medicine and the SFVAMC collaborate to provide education and training programs for medical students and residents at SFVAMC. SFVAMC maintains full responsibility for patient care and facility management of the medical center. Physicians at SFVAMC are employed by the Department of Veterans Affairs and also hold UCSF faculty appointments.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of California - San Francisco. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of California - San Francisco. "The Skin's Acid Coating: Researchers Explain Its Origin And How It Maintains Skin Integrity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 August 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010817082438.htm>.
University Of California - San Francisco. (2001, August 17). The Skin's Acid Coating: Researchers Explain Its Origin And How It Maintains Skin Integrity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010817082438.htm
University Of California - San Francisco. "The Skin's Acid Coating: Researchers Explain Its Origin And How It Maintains Skin Integrity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/08/010817082438.htm (accessed July 30, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Health Insurers' Profits Slide

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 30, 2014) Obamacare-related costs were said to be behind the profit plunge at Wellpoint and Humana, but Wellpoint sees the new exchanges boosting its earnings for the full year. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

Concern Grows Over Worsening Ebola Crisis

AFP (July 30, 2014) Pan-African airline ASKY has suspended all flights to and from the capitals of Liberia and Sierra Leone amid the worsening Ebola health crisis, which has so far caused 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Duration: 00:43 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

At Least 20 Chikungunya Cases in New Jersey

AP (July 30, 2014) At least 20 New Jersey residents have tested positive for chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has spread through the Caribbean. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Generics Eat Into Pfizer's Sales

Reuters - Business Video Online (July 29, 2014) Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, cut full-year revenue forecasts because generics could cut into sales of its anti-arthritis drug, Celebrex. Fred Katayama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins