Skin lipids could help treat diseases such as psoriasis

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Skin

Synthetically derived versions of lipids found naturally in the
skin barrier may be useful in treating skin diseases such as
psoriasis, according to research published recently in the Journal
of Lipid Research.

The team of scientists led by Jeung-Hoon Lee from the Chungnam National University, Daejeon, Korea, tested various synthetic ceramides finding that they had a significant effect on epidermal differentiation. Ceramides and their derivatives are a family of lipid molecules that are integral structural components of the cell membrane; they are required for the skin's barrier function, control water movement and prevent exogenous materials from entering the body. In addition, ceramides also play an important role in cell signalling, particularly in cell proliferation, differentiation and death. And it is this characteristic that interests the Korean scientists. The team investigated the effects of synthetic ceramide derivatives on human skin cell differentiation by testing them on cultured human keratinocytes, finding that they have the potential to induce keratinocyte differentiation. Keratinocytes are a major cell type of the human epidermis. Starting their life in the base layer of the skin, they are pushed up through the layers over a period of about a month, before they reach the top, where they form an effective barrier against outside agents and control water loss. Abnormalities in this process are implicated in diseases such as psoriasis; where abnormal keratinocyte differentiation leads to a proliferation of cells reaching the top layer that are not shed, therefore resulting in plaques of cells on the skin surface. The team tested several synthetic ceramide derivatives, some with long chain alkyl groups and some with short chain, finding that the latter had a more potent effect on cell differentiation. The precise details of the mechanism involved is not known - the authors suggest that this will be the focus of further study - however it is known to involve an increase in the level of intracellular calcium. The study, published this month, led the scientists to conclude that the "lipid molecules with short-chain alkyl groups had a potent biological effect on epidermal differentiation via increased intracellular calcium, suggesting that they may be useful in treating skin diseases arising from abnormal keratinocyte differentiation"​. Source: International Journal of Lipid Research ​2007, volume 48, pages 1936 - 1943 "Novel synthetic ceramide derivatives increase intracellular calcium levels and promote epidermal keratinocyte differentiation" ​Yoo Bin Kwon, Chang Deok Kim, Jong-Kyung Youm, Hyung Sub Gwak, Byeong Deog Park, Seung Hun Lee, Saewha Jeon, Bo Joong Kim, Young-Joon Seo, Jang-Kyu Park and Jeung-Hoon Lee

Related topics Formulation & Science Skin Care

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