Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Scientists identify the molecule responsible for the wrinkly Shar-pei

As cute as they look, Chinese Shar-pei dogs are afflicted with a potentially dangerous skin disorder which causes mild to severe wrinkling and thickening of the skin. Severe wrinkling can lead to bacterial infection in the skin and entropion (the inward folding of eyelids which can cause eyelashes to rub against the cornea). Scientists recently identified the molecule primarily responsible for this skin condition and its cause. The technical term for this type of skin wrinkling is cutaneous mucinosis, where cutaneous refers to the skin and mucinosis refers to deposits of mucin in the skin. Mucin is a clear jelly-like substance and the main component of mucin is hyaluronic acid (yes, the dermal filler). The researchers hypothesised that the accumulation of hyaluronic acid in the dermis caused mucinosis in the Shar-pei. By examining the correlation between mucinosis and the levels of blood hyaluronic acid, the researchers identified that the accumulation of hyaluronic acid was responsible for the mucinosis. The results of the study showed a strong and clear correlation between the severity of mucinosis and levels of blood hyaluronic acid ie. dogs with greater wrinkling had higher levels of hyaluronic acid in their blood.

(1) Zanna G, Fondevila D, Bardagi M, Docampo MJ, Bassols A and Ferrer L (2008) Cutaneous mucinosis in shar-pei dogs is due to hyaluronic acid deposition and is associated with high levels of hyaluronic acid in serum. Veterinary Dermatology. 19. p.314-318.
(3) Image: Wikimedia Commons

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