Direct Quantitative Comparison of Molecular Responses in Photodamaged Human Skin to Fractionated and Fully Ablative Carbon Dioxide Laser Resurfacing


  • This study was supported by the University of Michigan Department of Dermatology Laser Research Fund and by an American Society for Dermatologic Surgery Cutting Edge Research Grant. The authors have indicated no significant interest with commercial supporters.

Address correspondence and reprint request to: Jeffrey S. Orringer, MD, University of Michigan Medical School, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Department of Dermatology, 1910 Taubman Center, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, or e-mail:



Fractionated ablative laser resurfacing has become a widely used treatment modality. Its clinical results are often found to approach those of traditional fully ablative laser resurfacing.


To directly compare the molecular changes that result from fractionated and fully ablative carbon dioxide (CO2) laser resurfacing in photodamaged human skin.

Methods and Materials

Photodamaged skin of 34 adult volunteers was focally treated at distinct sites with a fully ablative CO2 laser and a fractionated CO2 laser. Serial skin samples were obtained at baseline and several time points after treatment. Real-time reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction technology and immunohistochemistry were used to quantify molecular responses to each type of laser treatment.


Fully ablative and fractionated CO2 laser resurfacing induced significant dermal remodeling and collagen induction. After a single treatment, fractionated ablative laser resurfacing resulted in collagen induction that was approximately 40% to 50% as pronounced as that induced by fully ablative laser resurfacing.


The fundamental cutaneous responses that result from fully ablative and fractionated carbon dioxide laser resurfacing are similar but differ in magnitude and duration, with the fully ablative procedure inducing relatively greater changes including more pronounced collagen induction. However, the molecular data reported here provide substantial support for fractionated ablative resurfacing as an effective treatment modality for improving skin texture.