Washington, Oct 21 : A treatment with a topical product that increases the skin's sensitivity to light, followed by laser therapy, can improve the appearance of sun-damaged skin, according to a new study.
Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System Department of Dermatology have also suggested that skin with the worst sun damage may respond particularly well to this treatment. For the 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.
Called photodynamic therapy, the treatment increased collagen levels in the skin and also produced other skin changes that are known to improve its appearance.
"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," said lead author Jeffrey S. Orringer, M.D., associate professor of dermatology at the U-M Health System.
The study was conducted on 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.
The scientists analysed biopsies taken before and at several times after the treatments, and recorded the molecular changes in the participants' skin at various stages.
They observed many molecular changes, and noticed that levels of the proteins procollagen I and procollagen III increased after treatment. Also, there was an evident increase in other protein levels molecular markers.
Orringer said that the study represents the latest example of U-M's human appearance research program's unraveling of the mechanisms by which popular treatments improve the appearance of the skin.
While photodynamic therapy has been used as a treatment for precancerous lesions called actinic keratoses and for some types of skin cancer, little scientific research has been conducted about its use in appearance-oriented dermatology.
The study appeared in the latest issue of the Archives of Dermatology.