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J Invest Dermatol. 1982 May;78(5):434-43.

Studies in cutaneous aging: I. The elastic fiber network.


We studied by light and electron microscopy the elastic fibers in he sun exposed and sun protected skin of normal and psoriatic individuals of different ages in order to separate the changes of actinic damage from those of chronological aging. The sun exposed skin showed 2 types of elastic fiber abnormalities-one related to actinic damage and the other to chronological aging. The sun protected buttock skin showed only the latter. From ages 30 to 70, a minority of the elastic fibers exhibited abnormalities that appeared to represent a process of fiber disintegration. After age 70, the majority of elastic fibers showed these abnormalities. These abnormalities were present without accompanying inflammatory cells. Also, there was morphological evidence of continuing synthesis of elastic fibers during the lifetime of these subjects, except that from ages 50-93, the fibers appeared to be loosely, rather than compactly, assembled. Incubation of dermal slices from buttock skin of young adults with porcine pancreatic elastase and bovine chymotrypsin produced elastic fiber degradation that closely simulated the changes that were observed in aged sun protected skin. We propose that one of the features of cutaneous aging is a slow, spontaneous, progressive degradative process inherent in the elastic fiber that can be enzymatically accelerated from decades to hours by elastase and chymotrypsin.

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