Age-related dermal collagen changes during development, maturation and ageing – a morphometric and comparative study

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Abstract

The tissue organisation of dermal collagen is gaining importance as a contributing factor both in development and ageing, as well as in skin maturation processes. In this work we aim to study different representative parameters of this structural organisation in 45 human skin samples of assorted ages, by means of image analysis. The variation of these parameters on the basis of age was assessed using several regression models (linear, quadratic and cubic). The area occupied by collagen was significantly reduced as a function of age in the papillary dermis (R2 = 0.437, P < 0.0001), as well as the thickness of the collagen bundles (R2 = 0.461, P < 0.0001), following statistical models of cubic and quadratic regression, respectively. The width of the papillary dermis increased in a significant manner over a linear regression model (R2 = 0.26, P < 0.0001). In the reticular dermis, the cubic regression indicated a significant decline (R2 = 0.392, P = 0.002) of the area filled with collagen according to the age. Both collagen thickness and bundle orientation parameters fit a quadratic regression over the age in a significant way (R2 = 0.433 and R2 = 0.334, respectively, both P < 0.0001). The width of the reticular dermis followed also a significant quadratic distribution according to age (R2 = 0.193, P = 0.011). These parameters could partially explain the lifelong functional changes taking place in the skin and propose a baseline providing a useful entry point for future investigation.

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