Lipids and skin barrier function – a clinical perspective

Authors


Jakob Mutanu Jungersted
Department of Dermatology
Roskilde Hospital
University of Copenhagen
Køgevej 7-13
4000 Roskilde
Denmark
Tel: +45 4732 2100
Fax: +45 4732 2128
e-mail: rsjamu@ra.dk

Abstract

The stratum corneum (SC) protects us from dehydration and external dangers. Much is known about the morphology of the SC and penetration of drugs through it, but the data are mainly derived from in vitro and animal experiments. In contrast, only a few studies have the human SC lipids as their focus and in particular, the role of barrier function in the pathogenesis of skin disease and its subsequent treatment protocols. The 3 major lipids in the SC of importance are ceramides, free fatty acids, and cholesterol. Human studies comparing levels of the major SC lipids in patients with atopic dermatitis and healthy controls have suggested a possible role for ceramide 1 and to some extent ceramide 3 in the pathogenesis of the disease. Therapies used in diseases involving barrier disruption have been sparely investigated from a lipid perspective. It has been suggested that ultraviolet light as a treatment increases the amount of all 3 major SC lipids, while topical glucocorticoids may lead to a decrease. Such effects may influence the clinical outcome of treatment in diseases with impaired barrier function. We have, therefore, conducted a review of the literature on SC lipids from a clinical perspective. It may be concluded that the number of human studies is very limited, and in the perspective of how important diseases of impaired barrier function are in dermatology, further research is needed.

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