Objective/Hypothesis: To document age-related histologic morphometric changes of rat skin and the effects of calorie restriction on such changes.
Study Design: Fischer 344 rats of three age groups (young, 4 mo; adult, 1 year; old, 24+ months) were procured from ad libitum (AL) diet and calorie-restricted (CR) colonies of the National Institute of Aging and were used for histologic study. Each study group consisted of six animals.
Methods: Skin samples from the dorsum (DS) and footpad (FP) of these animals were excised and processed for histology with staining techniques for general morphology (hematoxylin-eosin-phloxine) and for differentiation of collagen bundles and elastic fibers (Verhoeff-van Gieson technique). Light microscopic morphometric and stereologic point counting procedures were applied manually to tissue sections to obtain quantitative data on the depth of the epidermis, dermis, and stratum corneum, epidermal nuclear number, and percentage fraction of collagen, elastic fibers, capillaries, and pilosebaceous units. Data were analyzed with two-way of analysis of variance (ANOVA) to determine significant effects of age, diet, and age-diet interaction on these parameters in AL rats and their age-matched cohorts.
Results: Significant effects of age, diet, or age-diet interaction were observed in respect of the thickness of epidermis, dermis, stratum corneum of FP, epidermal nuclear number, collagen percentage fraction, and area fraction of capillaries. DS epidermis showed increasing thickness in AL group, but this was reduced in CR rats. A similar trend in DS dermal depth was observed. Fewer capillaries were present in aging CR rats. The DS epidermal nuclear profiles and collagen area fraction also showed effects of diet and age-diet interaction. Aging changes, especially the effect of CR, was more evident in the measured parameters of dorsal skin. No alterations were observed in the distribution of pilosebaceous units and elastic fiber profiles of the skin.
Conclusions: The Fischer 344 rat shows many age-related changes in the skin, some of which are different from data reported in literature. The pattern of aging changes in skin parameters was different in the two groups, suggesting an in influence of CR. CR appears to modify the aging rate of some skin components, and this may be caused by metabolic changes imposed by diet.