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Biological effects of air pollution on the function of human skin equivalents

Lookup NU author(s): Wil Reynolds, Dr Ndubuisi Eje, Professor Paul ChristensenORCiD, Professor Mark Birch-MachinORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2023 The Authors. FASEB BioAdvances published by The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The World Health Organization reports that 99% of the global population are exposed to pollution levels higher than the recommended air quality guidelines. Pollution-induced changes in the skin have begun to surface; however, the effects require further investigation so that effective protective strategies can be developed. This study aimed to investigate some of the aging-associated effects caused by ozone and particulate matter (PM) on human skin equivalents. Full-thickness skin equivalents were exposed to 0.01 μg/μL PM, 0.05 μg/μL PM, 0.3 ppm ozone, or a combination of 0.01 μg/μL PM and 0.3 ppm ozone, before skin equivalents and culture medium were harvested for histological/immunohistochemical staining, gene and protein expression analysis using qPCR, Western blotting, and ELISA. Markers include MMP-1, MMP-3, COL1A1, collagen-I, 4-HNE, HMGCR, and PGE2. PM was observed to induce a decrease in epidermal thickness and an enhanced matrix building phenotype, with increases in COL1A1 and an increase in collagen-I protein expression. By contrast, ozone induced an increase in epidermal thickness and was found to induce a matrix-degrading phenotype, with decreases in collagen-I gene/protein expression and increases in MMP-1 and MMP-3 gene/protein expression. Ozone was also found to induce changes in lipid homeostasis and inflammation induction. Some synergistic damage was also observed when combining ozone and 0.01 μg/μL PM. The results presented in this study identify distinct pollutant-induced effects and show how pollutants may act synergistically to augment damage; given individuals are rarely only exposed to one pollutant type, exposure to multiple pollutant types should be considered to develop effective protective interventions.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Reynolds WJ, Eje N, Christensen P, Li W-H, Daly SM, Parsa R, Chavan B, Birch-Machin MA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: FASEB BioAdvances

Year: 2023

Volume: 5

Issue: 11

Pages: 470-483

Print publication date: 05/11/2023

Online publication date: 03/10/2023

Acceptance date: 14/09/2023

Date deposited: 15/09/2023

ISSN (electronic): 2573-9832

Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Inc.


DOI: 10.1096/fba.2023-00068


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Funder referenceFunder name
Johnson and Johnson Consumer Inc.