Glycerin, or glycerol, is a natural alcohol and water attractor that's been used in skin care products for centuries, says Dr. Wendy Bollinger Bollag, cell physiologist.
In research published in the December issue of The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, she and co-author Dr. Xiangjian Zheng, who worked as a graduate student in her lab and is now a postdoctoral fellow at Vanderbilt University, show that glycerol also makes skin look and function better by helping skin cells mature properly.
"This is a pretty novel hypothesis that is really quite in its infancy," Dr. Bollag says of the finding that glycerol works as a signal to help direct skin cells through their four normal stages of maturity. In the endless cycle of skin-cell production, the youngest cells move up from the deepest layer and switch from replicating as their main function to eventually becoming mature surface cells that spit out lipids to help form the skin's protective barrier before they die.
The researchers' findings about the signaling function of glycerol means the readily available fluid, found in its pure state on grocery store shelves and as a component of many other products, may help people with diseases such as psoriasis and non-melanoma skin cancers, that result from abnormal proliferation and maturation of skin cells, and may augment wound-healing.
The researchers found glycerol's role in skin cell maturation while studying phospholipase D, an enzyme that converts fats or lipids in the external, protective cell membrane to cell signals. Phospholipids are fats found throughout the body that make up much of the plasma membrane lipid bilayer that encases each cell and helps keep it from mixing with other cells. All cells have this layer and skin cells sec
Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia