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Br J Dermatol. 2004 Jan;150(1):72-81.

Inflammation in acne scarring: a comparison of the responses in lesions from patients prone and not prone to scar.

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Department of Dermatology, Leeds Foundation for Dermatological Research, Leeds General Infirmary, Great George Street, Leeds LS1 3EX, U.K.



Many patients with inflammatory acne suffer from significant scarring, which is disfiguring and difficult to treat. A cell-mediated immune response is considered to be involved in the pathogenesis of acne, although the extent of this response has been found to differ among patients.


To assess whether there were differences in the cell-mediated immune responses at different time points in inflamed lesion development and resolution in patients who were prone (S patients) and those with the same degree of inflamed acne who were not prone (NS patients) to develop scarring.


Cellular and vascular markers were investigated using standard immunohistochemical techniques on biopsies of inflamed lesions of known duration, i.e. < 6 h (n = 14), 24 h (n = 14), 48 h (n = 10), 72 h (n = 10) and 6-7 days (n = 11) from the backs of acne patients.


In early lesions from NS patients there was a large influx of CD4+ T cells, macrophages and Langerhans cells with a high number of cells expressing HLA-DR. Also there was significant angiogenesis and vascular adhesion molecule expression. Cell recruitment peaked in 48 h lesions, after which leucocyte numbers decreased and vascular activity returned to normal. Of the T cells, only 50% were memory/effector (CD45RO+) and naive (CD45RA+) cells, while the remainder were unclassified (CD45RO-, CD45RA-). In early lesions from S patients, CD4+ T cell numbers were smaller, although a high proportion were skin homing memory/effector cells. Langerhans cell numbers and cellular HLA-DR expression were low, while numbers of macrophages, blood vessels and vascular adhesion molecules were high. In resolving lesions angiogenesis remained high, with a further influx of macrophages and skin homing memory/effector cells and increased cellular HLA-DR expression.


The cellular infiltrate was large and active with a greater nonspecific response (few memory T cells) in early lesions of NS patients, which subsided in resolution. In contrast, a predominantly specific immune response was present in S patients, which was initially smaller and ineffective, but was increased and activated in resolving lesions. Such excessive inflammation in healing tissue is conducive to scarring and suggests that the use of topical anti-inflammatory treatments would be appropriate for these patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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