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The skin's acid coating: SFVAMC researchers explain its origin and how it maintains skin integrity

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.
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Contact: Kevin Boyd
kboyd@pubaff.ucsf.edu
415-476-8429
University of California - San Francisco
15-Aug-2001


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