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Keywords:

  • carbon dioxide laser;
  • skin;
  • three-dimensional network;
  • ultraviolet radiation;
  • wrinkle

Background  We have previously reported that ultraviolet (UV) B irradiation induces a loss of linearity in the three-dimensional structure of dermal elastic fibres, which results in the reduction of elastic properties of the skin and leads to wrinkle formation. We further reported that repair of wrinkles by all-trans retinoic acid is accompanied by recovery of the linearity of elastic fibres. Carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers are widely used for treating wrinkles in cosmetic surgery.

Objectives  To perform CO2 laser treatment of wrinkles induced in rat skin by UVB irradiation and to evaluate changes in the three-dimensional structure of dermal elastic fibres during wrinkle repair.

Methods  Wrinkles were induced in the hind limb skin of Sprague–Dawley rats by UVB irradiation (130 mJ cm−2 three times weekly for 6 weeks), followed by CO2 laser treatment (11·3 J cm−2). The surface appearance of the skin was evaluated by replica observation 6 and 10 weeks after CO2 laser treatment followed by measurement of mechanical properties using a Cutometer. Subsequently, perfusion fixation and digestion with formic acid were performed and elastic fibres were observed by scanning electron microscopy (SEM). Image analysis of SEM micrographs was carried out to evaluate the linearity in the three-dimensional structure of elastic fibres.

Results  Six weeks after CO2 laser treatment, all parameters of skin mechanical properties in the UVB-irradiated group recovered to levels of the control non-irradiated group, accompanied by repair of wrinkles and a significant increase in linearity of the three-dimensional structure of elastic fibres.

Conclusions  These findings indicate that CO2 laser treatment has a therapeutic potential to repair wrinkles to non-irradiated levels through recovery of the three-dimensional structure of elastic fibres.