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Research Shows Photodynamic Therapy May Be Helpful for the Skin

Posted: October 28, 2008

Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System Department of Dermatology have found scientific evidence that the appearance of sun-damaged skin may be improved by treatment with a topical product that increases the skin's sensitivity to light, followed by laser therapy.

In the new study, participants whose skin was sun-damaged or photodamaged were treated with a topical photosensitizer called 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA) and then with a pulsed dye laser. This type of treatment, known as photodynamic therapy, increased collagen levels in the skin and also produced other skin changes that are known to improve its appearance.

The results also suggest that skin with the worst sun damage may respond particularly well to this treatment. "This is new scientific evidence that photodynamic therapy may in fact be a useful tool to improve the appearance of the skin. This type of therapy has been performed in clinical practice for the past few years, but we've never had detailed molecular evidence for why it may work," says lead author Jeffrey S. Orringer, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at the U-M Health System and director of U-M's Cosmetic Dermatology and Laser Center. The study appears in the October issue of the Archives of Dermatology.

The study looked at 24 adults, ages 54 to 83, all of whom had significant photodamage on the forearm skin. They received a three-hour application of 5-ALA followed by pulsed dye laser therapy. Researchers examined biopsies taken before and at several times after the treatments, and they recorded the molecular changes in the participants' skin at various stages.

Among many other molecular changes, levels of the proteins procollagen I and procollagen III increased after treatment. For instance, one month after treatment, levels of procollagen I peaked with an increase of 2.65 times the pre-treatment levels. Procollagen III peaked one month after treatment with an increase of 3.32 times the pre-treatment levels. Other protein levels molecular markers also increased.