Objective: To examine whether histological changes in skin owing to intrinsic aging in a laboratory rodent model are modulated by caloric restriction (CR). Methods: The abdominal skin from colony-raised ad libitum-fed Fischer 344 rats and age-matched rats subjected to CR was studied in the light microscope using histological morphometric methods. Animals 4, 12, and 24 months or older were used in this study. We studied the skin to obtain (1) quantitative data on the depth of the epidermis, dermis, and fat layer, the epidermal cellular density, the percentage fraction of dermal collagen, elastic fibers, pilosebaceous units, and capillaries, and the fibroblast density; and (2) qualitative assessment of histological staining for dermal glycosaminoglycans. We analyzed data by means of general linear model 2-way analysis of variance to obtain significance for the effects of age, diet, and age-diet interaction. Results: The ad libitum-fed rats showed age-related increase in the depth of the epidermis, dermis, and fat layer. Calorie restriction prevented these changes, but epidermal nuclear density appeared to be stimulated. A trend toward increased values for collagen and elastic fibers, fibroblasts, and capillaries in skin samples from CR rats was observed. Pilosebaceous units were not modified. Moderately reduced staining for the dermal glycosaminoglycans in the skin of CR rats was noticed. Conclusions: Histomorphological changes resulting from intrinsic aging affected some of the studied variables in the rat skin, and these changes were delayed or prevented by CR. Some stimulatory effects, such as increased densities of fibroblasts and capillary profiles and higher values of connective tissue fibers resulting from CR, were also observed. Cutaneous morphological changes due to natural aging in this rat model seem to be modified by physiological or metabolic alterations imposed by CR.
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