Aged skin: A study by light, transmission electron, and scanning electron microscopy

R. M. Lavker, P. Zheng, G. Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

231 Scopus citations


The fine structural organization of the epidermis, dermal/epidermal junction, and dermis from an unexposed site (upper inner arm) of elderly people was compared with the organization of a similar region of young people. Despite an overall thinning of the epidermis and focal areas of cytologic atypia, the characteristic morphological markers associated with the keratinization process are not markedly altered in appearance or amount. A well-formed stratum corneum consisting of flattened, enucleated horny cells enveloped by a thickened membrane, and intracellular spaces filled with electron-dense material provide structural evidence that barrier ability is not compromised in senile skin. The dermal/epidermal changes in aged skin are marked and have significant physiologic implications. The major change is a relatively flat dermal/epidermal junction resulting from the retraction of the epidermal papillae as well as the microprojections of basal cells into the dermis. This flattening results in a more fragile epidermal/dermal interface, and, consequently, the epidermis is less resistant to shearing forces. Retraction of the epidermal downgrowths (preferential sites of the putative epidermal stem cell) may also explain the loss inn proliferative capacity associated with the aged epidermis. The three-dimensional arrangements of collagen and elastic fibers showed marked alterations with age. Both fibrous components appear more compact because of a decrease in spaces between the fibers. Collagen bundles appear to unravel, and the individual elastic fibers show signs of elastosis. These changes may contribute to the loss of resilience that is one of the salient features of senile skin.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Investigative Dermatology
Issue number3 SUPPL.
StatePublished - 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Cell Biology


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