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JAMA. 1990 Jun 13;263(22):3057-9.

Treatment of photoaged skin with topical tretinoin increases epidermal-dermal anchoring fibrils. A preliminary report.

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  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.


Topical 0.1% tretinoin or vehicle control was applied daily to the forearm skin of six caucasian adults for 4 months. Two-millimeter punch biopsy specimens were obtained from treatment sites at the beginning and end of the study period for electron microscopy. Anchoring fibrils within the epidermal-dermal junction of skin treatment sites were quantitated by blinded, standardized, computer-assisted morphometry. After 4 months of continual daily treatment, skin sites that received topical tretinoin showed double the anchoring fibril density compared with vehicle control sites (1.34 anchoring fibrils per micron of lamina densa vs 0.65, respectively). The possible mechanisms by which topical tretinoin increases anchoring fibrils in skin include the drug's property of inhibiting collagenase, a dermal enzyme that degrades anchoring fibril collagen. We speculate that increased numbers of collagenous anchoring fibrils within the papillary dermis of human skin is one of the connective-tissue correlates of the clinical improvement observed in photoaged skin after treatment with topical tretinoin.

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