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With Age Comes a Tough Skin

Loss of cell elasticity causes skin to become leathery, study says

FRIDAY, April 30, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The loss of elasticity in individual epithelial cells -- which cover the surface of the body and line body cavities -- is the reason skin thickens and becomes leathery as people age, according to a Clarkson University study.

This finding may help in the development of treatments of age-related diseases such as joint stiffness, hardening of the arteries, cataracts and dementia.

It was already known that epithelial tissues lose elasticity as humans age. This process has been linked to a number of age-related diseases. However, it was previously believed this decrease in elasticity was caused by the loss of extra cellular proteins that seal epithelial tissues.

But this new study found individual epithelial cells themselves become more rigid with age. The Clarkson scientists were able to determine this by developing a new atomic force microscopy method for cell study.

They found a strong correlation between increased rigidity in older cells and the surface density of cytoskeleton fibers. The cytoskeleton is the most rigid part of the cell.

The study was presented recently at the annual meeting of the American Physical Society.

More information

The American Academy of Dermatology has more on aging skin.

SOURCE: Clarkson University, news release, April 2004
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