Interactions between substances determine allergenic potential

This is skin photographed in the two-photon microscope, showing epidermal cells and the collagen present in the dermis. Photo: Carl Simonsson

Scientists at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have used advanced light microscopy to show that a substance can be differently absorbed by the skin, depending on what it is mixed with. This may determine whether it causes contact allergy or not.

"We have also been able to identify specific cells and proteins in the skin with which a contact interacts. The results increase our understanding of the mechanisms behind contact allergy", says Carl Simonsson at the Department of Chemistry, University of Gothenburg.

The skin is the largest organ in the and plays many vital roles, one of which is to prevent harmful microorganisms from invading the body. The principal barrier is constituted by a layer of around a few microns thick, known as the "stratum corneum". Despite being so thin, this layer effectively protects us from e.g. and viruses.

The skin, however, is not adapted to deal with and prevent absorption of many of the chemicals that we are exposed to today. This may lead to various types of diseases, such as contact , which affects approximately 20% of people in Sweden.

The work presented in Carl Simonsson's thesis describes the use of an advanced form of known as "two-photon microscopy", which makes it possible to follow substances absorbed into the skin. The method is unique in that it allows us to see not only how well a substance is absorbed, but also what happens to it, and the location in the skin that the substance eventually comes to.

The skin barrier and the way in which various substances are absorbed are highly significant also for the development of . Creams and ointments are for many reasons an interesting alternative to tablets, which have to be taken by mouth. The barrier properties of the skin may in this case present an obstacle to drug absorption, making it difficult for sufficient amounts of the drug to penetrate the skin to give a clinical effect.

"We have used two-photon microscopy to study a new type of ointment that it may be possible to use to improve the absorption, and thus the clinical effect, of certain drugs that are used on the skin", says Carl Simonsson.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Knee protectors can form allergenic substances on the skin

Jan 11, 2011

Common rubber products can form isothiocyanates in contact with skin and cause contact allergy. This is the conclusion of research carried out at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden).Isothiocyanates are a group of reactive ...

A substance from bacteria can lead to allergy-free sunscreen

Oct 25, 2011

As the realisation that radiation emitted by the sun can give rise to skin cancer has increased, so also has the use of sunscreen creams. These creams, however, can give rise to contact allergy when exposed to the sun, and ...

New discovery on the causes of contact allergy

Oct 12, 2010

The fragrances used in many household and skincare products can cause contact allergy when exposed to oxygen in the air, reveals research from the University of Gothenburg's Faculty of Science in conjunction with the University ...

Recommended for you

Mystery of the reverse-wired eyeball solved

Feb 27, 2015

From a practical standpoint, the wiring of the human eye - a product of our evolutionary baggage - doesn't make a lot of sense. In vertebrates, photoreceptors are located behind the neurons in the back of the eye - resulting ...

Neurons controlling appetite made from skin cells

Feb 27, 2015

Researchers have for the first time successfully converted adult human skin cells into neurons of the type that regulate appetite, providing a patient-specific model for studying the neurophysiology of weight ...

Quality control for adult stem cell treatment

Feb 27, 2015

A team of European researchers has devised a strategy to ensure that adult epidermal stem cells are safe before they are used as treatments for patients. The approach involves a clonal strategy where stem cells are collected ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.