Hemoglobin Discovered in the Epidermis

November 17, 2023
Hemoglobin Discovered in the Epidermis image

The genes responsible for producing hemoglobin were highly active in the upper part of the epidermis.

Hemoglobin is present in the epidermis, according to new research that sheds light on the skin's protective properties.

For the first time,reesearchers discovered the hemoglobin α protein in human and mouse keratinocytes of the epidermis and in hair follicles. Hemoglobin binds gases such as oxygen, carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide, and it is an iron carrier via the heme complex. These properties make epidermal hemoglobin a prime candidate for antioxidant activity and potentially other roles in barrier function.

"We discovered that the genes responsible for producing hemoglobin were highly active in the upper part of the epidermis," says lead investigator Masayuki Amagai, MD, PhD, Department of Dermatology, Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, and Laboratory for Skin Homeostasis, RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences, Yokohama, in a news release. "Our study showed that epidermal hemoglobin was upregulated by oxidative stress and inhibited the production of reactive oxygen species in human keratinocyte cell cultures.”

 Dr. Amagai continues, “Our findings suggest that hemoglobin α protects keratinocytes from oxidative stress derived from external or internal sources such as UV irradiation and impaired mitochondrial function, respectively. Therefore, the expression of hemoglobin by keratinocytes represents an endogenous defense mechanism against skin aging and skin cancer."

The study appears in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.

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