Individuals of African descent (AFD) are more susceptible to non-freezing cold injury than Caucasians (CAU) which may be due, in part, to differences in the control of skin blood flow. We investigated the skin blood flow responses to transdermal application of vasoactive agents.
Twenty-four young males (12 CAU and 12 AFD) undertook three tests in which iontophoresis was used to apply acetylcholine (ACh 1 w/v %), sodium nitroprusside (SNP 0.01 w/v %) and noradrenaline (NA 0.5 mM) to the skin. The skin sites tested were: volar forearm, non-glabrous finger and toe, and glabrous finger (pad) and toe (pad).
In response to SNP on the forearm, AFD had less vasodilatation for a given current application than CAU (P = 0.027–0.004). ACh evoked less vasodilatation in AFD for a given application current in the non-glabrous finger and toe compared with CAU (P = 0.043–0.014) with a lower maximum vasodilatation in the non-glabrous finger (median [interquartile], AFD n = 11, 41 %, CAU n = 12, 351 %, P = 0.011) and non-glabrous toe (median [interquartile], AFD n = 9, 116 %, CAU n = 12, 484 %, P = 0.018). ACh and SNP did not elicit vasodilatation in the glabrous skin sites of either group. There were no ethnic differences in response to NA.
AFD have an attenuated endothelium-dependent vasodilatation in non-glabrous sites of the fingers and toes compared with CAU. This may contribute to lower skin temperature following cold exposure and the increased risk of cold injuries experienced by AFD.
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Half-maximal effective dose
Mean arterial pressure
Non-freezing cold injury
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The authors wish to thank the participants for volunteering for the study.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This study complied with The Declaration of Helsinki, as adopted at the 18th World Medical Association (WMA) General Assembly, Helsinki, Finland, 1964 and last amended at the 64th World Medical Association General Assembly, Brazil, 2013. This study complied with the Council of Europe (2005). Additional Protocol to the convention on human rights and biomedicine concerning biomedical research. European Treaty Series No. 195, Strasbourg 25 January 2005. Additionally, the study received ethical and scientific approval from the Science Faculty Ethics Committee, prior to recruitment of volunteer participants, who gave informed written consent.
Communicated by George Havenith.
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Maley, M.J., House, J.R., Tipton, M.J. et al. Vascular responses of the extremities to transdermal application of vasoactive agents in Caucasian and African descent individuals. Eur J Appl Physiol 115, 1801–1811 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3164-2