Author(s): Lavker RM, Zheng PS, Dong G
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Abstract Despite an overall thinning of the epidermis and focal areas of cytologic atypia, there was no morphologic evidence that the protective function of this tissue was compromised by age. The characteristic morphologic markers associated with the keratinization process were not altered either in appearance or in amounts. A well-formed stratum corneum was present, suggestive that barrier ability is not compromised in senile skin. Whereas alterations in the aged epidermis are slight, the dermal-epidermal changes are marked and have greater physiologic consequences. The major change is a relatively flat dermal-epidermal junction because of retraction of the epidermal papillae as well as the microprojections of basal cells into the dermis. This flattening results in a more fragile tissue that is less resistant to shearing forces. Retraction of the epidermal downgrowths may also explain the loss in proliferative capacity associated with the aged epidermis. The major alterations in the aged dermis concern the architecture of the collagen and elastin networks. Both fibrous components appear more compact because of a decrease in the voids or spaces between the fibers; the spaces resulted from a loss of ground substance. Collagen bundles appear to unravel, and the individual elastic fibers show signs of elastolysis. The net effect of these fibrous rearrangements and alterations is a dermis that is less stretchable, less resilient, more lax, and prone to wrinkling.
This article was published in Clin Geriatr Med
and referenced in Journal of Addiction Research & Therapy