Nanoscale alterations of corneocytes indicate skin disease

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The skin barrier protects the organism against exogenous stressors and simultaneously prevents excessive water loss. While the delicate regulation of skin barrier is not completely understood, morphological and histological evaluation remain key features of clinical investigations. Here, we extended the phenotypic perspective down to the nanoscale.


Corneocyte samples were obtained non-invasively by a standard tape stripping procedure from 21 indviduals. Scanning electron (SEM) and atomic force microcopy (AFM) were used to record nanoscale topography. Circular nano-objects were identified and these were quantitated through computer vision.


Typical dimensions of 273 nm height and 305 nm width. We showed that their density does not correlate to age or pigmentation in healthy subjects, but that they were clearly elevated in corneocytes from patients with atopic dermatitis, a common inflammatory skin condition.


The presence of these corneocyte-nanostructures might be used as a diagnostic parameter for skin disorders - even in cases below a clinical threshold.

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