Biochemical and structural changes of dermal connective tissue substantially contribute to the phenotype of aging skin. To study connective tissue metabolism with respect to ultraviolet (UV) exposure, we performed an in vitro (human dermal fibroblasts) and an in vivo complementary DNA array study in combination with protein analysis in young and old volunteers. Several genes of the collagen metabolism such as Collagen I, III and VI as well as heat shock protein 47 and matrix metalloproteinase-1 are expressed differentially, indicating UV-mediated effects on collagen expression, processing and degradation. In particular, Collagen I is time and age dependently reduced after a single UV exposure in human skin in vivo. Moreover, older subjects display a lower baseline level and a shorter UV-mediated increase in hyaluronan (HA) levels. To counteract these age-dependent changes, cultured fibroblasts were treated with a specific soy extract. This treatment resulted in increased collagen and HA synthesis. In a placebo-controlled in vivo study, topical application of an isoflavone-containing emulsion significantly enhanced the number of dermal papillae per area after 2 weeks. Because the flattening of the dermal-epidermal junction is the most reproducible structural change in aged skin, this soy extract appears to rejuvenate the structure of mature skin.
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