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Stratum Corneum Described at the Molecular Level

Posted: April 30, 2012

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To conduct their study, the researchers developed an entirely new experimental approach involving rapidly freezing tiny skin samples and studying them under a low-temperature electron microscope.

"This has given us an unprecedented opportunity to determine the molecular structure and function of native cells and tissues in situ without having our data muddied by the addition of dyes, solvents or plastics," adds Norlén.

Their discovery has profound significance for dermatology. The majority of skin diseases manifest themselves in some kind of functional disorder of the skin's protective barrier, and the researchers now want to use their method to determine such changes at a molecular level. If they succeed in this, it will be a decisive step toward a deeper understanding of these diseases and, hopefully, the development of new, improved treatments.

"This may be a breakthrough for dermatology," says Norlén. "Our team has devoted the past 20 years to unlocking the mysteries of the stratum corneum."

All land-living organisms are surrounded by a protective watertight shell. In humans and other vertebrates, it comprises a uniquely complex layer of fat between the cells of the stratum corneum.