Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Goldfinger held grain of truth

13.02.2002


Skin deep: oxygen from the air feeds the epidermis and some of the dermis
© SPL


Our skin takes its oxygen straight from the air.

The James Bond movie Goldfinger spawned the urban myth that a person can suffocate if air cannot reach their skin. But the plot contains a grain of truth, new research reveals - our skin gets its oxygen from the atmosphere, not the blood.

Air supplies the top 0.25-0.4 mm of the skin with oxygen, dermatologist Markus Stücker of the Ruhr-University in Bochum, Germany, and his colleagues have found. This is almost 10 times deeper than previous estimates. This zone includes the entire outermost layer of living cells - the epidermis - and some of the dermis below, which contains sweat glands and hair roots.



The finding could change doctors’ approach to skin conditions. Says David Harrison, who studies the use of oxygen by the skin at the University Hospital of North Durham, UK: "Everyone thought that atmospheric oxygen was unimportant, but a significant depth of the skin is supplied from the air."

Air cut

Diseases of the skin and its blood supply take a heavy toll, particularly on the elderly. The UK National Health Service, for example, spends about £500 million (US$700 million) each year on treating chronic leg ulcers.

"Most physicians think these are due to missing oxygen," says Stücker. But his finding that skin has free access to all the oxygen it needs suggests instead that ulcers may be caused instead by poor blood supply starving tissues of nutrients.

Harrison thinks that tissue damage could occur when the balance between blood supply and atmospheric oxygen supply breaks down. He points out that medics usually bandage an ulcer, which, by cutting it off from the air, may actually worsen any oxygen shortage.

Air’s oxygenation of skin could also be relevant to diseases in which skin cells divide excessively, such as psoriasis and eczema. Covering the skin can ease these conditions, but no one knows why. Stücker’s finding, coupled with the fact that oxygen boosts cell division, could provide an answer.

Healthy skin that is isolated from the air can compensate by drawing oxygen from the blood, but diseased skin seems to be unable to do this.

Air traffic control

Stücker and his colleagues measured skin breathing by covering a small patch of skin with an oxygen-sensitive membrane. Previous methods were invasive - sticking an electrode into the skin - or involved putting the entire torso, or a limb, into a chamber to measure gas exchange. This hid the large amounts of variation in gas exchange in different areas.

Although the skin relies on air, only 0.4% of the body’s total oxygen needs are supplied this way, the team found. Cutting off the blood supply to the skin had almost no effect on the level of oxygen in the organs. Results were the same for 20-year-old subjects as for 70-year-olds.


References

  1. Stücker, M. et al. The cutaneous uptake of oxygen contributes significantly to the oxygen supply of human dermis and epidermis. Journal of Physiology, 538, 985 - 994, (2002).

JOHN WHITFIELD | © Nature News Service
Further information:
http://www.nature.com/nsu/020211/020211-5.html

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Single-stranded DNA and RNA origami go live
15.12.2017 | Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard

nachricht New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists
15.12.2017 | Louisiana State University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: First-of-its-kind chemical oscillator offers new level of molecular control

DNA molecules that follow specific instructions could offer more precise molecular control of synthetic chemical systems, a discovery that opens the door for engineers to create molecular machines with new and complex behaviors.

Researchers have created chemical amplifiers and a chemical oscillator using a systematic method that has the potential to embed sophisticated circuit...

Im Focus: Long-lived storage of a photonic qubit for worldwide teleportation

MPQ scientists achieve long storage times for photonic quantum bits which break the lower bound for direct teleportation in a global quantum network.

Concerning the development of quantum memories for the realization of global quantum networks, scientists of the Quantum Dynamics Division led by Professor...

Im Focus: Electromagnetic water cloak eliminates drag and wake

Detailed calculations show water cloaks are feasible with today's technology

Researchers have developed a water cloaking concept based on electromagnetic forces that could eliminate an object's wake, greatly reducing its drag while...

Im Focus: Scientists channel graphene to understand filtration and ion transport into cells

Tiny pores at a cell's entryway act as miniature bouncers, letting in some electrically charged atoms--ions--but blocking others. Operating as exquisitely sensitive filters, these "ion channels" play a critical role in biological functions such as muscle contraction and the firing of brain cells.

To rapidly transport the right ions through the cell membrane, the tiny channels rely on a complex interplay between the ions and surrounding molecules,...

Im Focus: Towards data storage at the single molecule level

The miniaturization of the current technology of storage media is hindered by fundamental limits of quantum mechanics. A new approach consists in using so-called spin-crossover molecules as the smallest possible storage unit. Similar to normal hard drives, these special molecules can save information via their magnetic state. A research team from Kiel University has now managed to successfully place a new class of spin-crossover molecules onto a surface and to improve the molecule’s storage capacity. The storage density of conventional hard drives could therefore theoretically be increased by more than one hundred fold. The study has been published in the scientific journal Nano Letters.

Over the past few years, the building blocks of storage media have gotten ever smaller. But further miniaturization of the current technology is hindered by...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

See, understand and experience the work of the future

11.12.2017 | Event News

Innovative strategies to tackle parasitic worms

08.12.2017 | Event News

AKL’18: The opportunities and challenges of digitalization in the laser industry

07.12.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Engineers program tiny robots to move, think like insects

15.12.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

One in 5 materials chemistry papers may be wrong, study suggests

15.12.2017 | Materials Sciences

New antbird species discovered in Peru by LSU ornithologists

15.12.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>