• ablative resurfacing;
  • confocal microscopy;
  • fractional resurfacing;
  • fractional photothermolysis;
  • histology;
  • human;
  • immunohistochemistry;
  • in vivo;
  • laser;
  • melanin shuttle;
  • microscopic epidermal necrotic debris, MEND;
  • Microthermal zones, MTZ;
  • non-ablative resurfacing;
  • non-ablative remodeling;
  • skin rejuvenation


Background and Objective

Fractional photothermolysis (FP) is a new concept using arrays of microscopic thermal damage patterns to stimulate a therapeutic response. We analyzed epidermal and dermal response to FP with the aim of correlating histological and clinical response.

Study Design/Materials and Methods

Twelve subjects received a single treatment with a prototype diode laser emitting at a wavelength of 1,500 nm, delivering 5 mJ per microscopic treatment zone (MTZ), and a density of 1,600 MTZs/cm2 on the forearm. Biopsies were procured over a period of 3 months. The biopsies were analyzed by two blinded dermatopathologists using hematoxylin and eosin (Hematoxylin and Eosin Stain), Elastica von Gieson, nitro-blue-tetrazolium-chloride (NBTC) viability, and immunohistochemistry stains. Furthermore, the treatment sites were evaluated in vivo by confocal microscopy.

Results and Discussion

Twenty-four hours after fractional photothermolysis, the continuity of the epidermal basal cell layer is restored. Complete epidermal regeneration is obtained 7 days after the treatment. Microscopic epidermal necrotic debris (MENDs) are seen as early as 1 day after FP. MENDs contain melanin pigment, and are shed from the epidermis within 7 days. Evidence of increased collagen III production is shown with immunohistochemistry (IHC) staining 7 days after FP. IHC for heat shock protein 70 (HSP 70) shows the expression of HSP 1 day after FP, and IHC for alpha smooth muscle actin shows the presence of myofibroblasts 7 days after FP. These findings are concordant with the induction of a wound healing response by FP. There is no evidence of residual dermal fibrosis 3 months after treatment.


A single treatment with fractional photothermolysis induces a wound healing response in the dermis. A mechanism for the precise removal of epidermal melanin is described, in which MENDs act as a melanin shuttle. Lasers Surg. Med. 38:142–149, 2006. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.