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Examining Skin: A Functional Barrier

By: Marie Alice Dibon, PharmD
Posted: March 2, 2012, from the March 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

page 5 of 13

If these proteins are dysfunctional or absent, the lipids can’t stay anchored onto the cells and the barrier function is impaired—resulting in many different disorders, starting with irritable, dry and sensitive skin and, possibly, severe dryness, skin lesions, etc.

In some pathologies where the barrier is deeply impaired, such as atopic dermatitis or eczema, there may be a genetic deficiency in filagrin.

Tight Junctions

New research on the skin barrier reveals very important and very interesting structures: Also called “kissing points,” the tight junctions are proteinic structures between the cells that allow cell adhesion and barrier function control. Their crucial role in the barrier function has only been recently demonstrated and researchers are still in the process of understanding it fully.

Tight junctions restrict ions circulation but allow for the controlled diffusion of water. They control the evaporation of water. They also function as landmarks by limiting the circulation of signaling molecules.

Claudin is one of the anchoring molecules in the tight junctions. When the synthesis of claudin is inhibited, the water loss becomes much more important. This tells us that lipids are necessary but not enough to control TEWL.

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