Content » Vol 67, Issue 2

Azelaic acid vs. placebo: effects on normal human keratinocytes and melanocytes. Electron microscopic evaluation after long-term application in vivo

A. Mayer-da Silva, H. Gollnick, E. Imcke, C.E. Orfanos
DOI: 10.2340/0001555567116122


The effects of topically applied 20% azelaic acid (AA) on normal human epidermis were investigated vs. placebo in a double blind study by electron microscopy in 15 volunteers. After 3 months of local application twice daily, the pattern of epidermal keratinization was found altered in skin treated with AA. In particular, the number and thickness of tonofilament bundles and the number of keratohyaline granules seemed decreased; the remaining granules were smaller, occasionally showing irregular electron densities. The perinuclear endoplasmic reticulum and the cytoplasmic cisternae were enlarged and swollen mitochondria were regularly observed in most malpighian keratinocytes. Thorough quantitative evaluation of the number and distribution of melanocytes by a MOP-videoplan computer system showed no differences between verum and placebo sites, although, the mean number of melanocytes had increased in both, as compared to the untreated controls taken before onset of therapy. No significant qualitative changes of the normal melanocytes were found. These findings indicate that azelaic acid may influence the differentiation of normal human keratinocytes by reducing the synthesis of keratin precursors and may, therefore, act as a mild antikeratinizing agent, whereas, the pigmentary system in normal human epidermis does not show any specific change after 3 months of treatment with AA.


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