The role of estrogen deficiency in skin ageing and wound healing

Abstract

The links between hormonal signalling and lifespan have been well documented in a range of model organisms. For example, in C. elegans or D. melanogaster, lifespan can be modulated by ablating germline cells, or manipulating reproductive history or pregnenolone signalling. In mammalian systems, however, hormonal contribution to longevity is less well understood. With increasing age human steroid hormone profiles change substantially, particularly following menopause in women. This article reviews recent links between steroid sex hormones and ageing, with special emphasis on the skin and wound repair. Estrogen, which substantially decreases with advancing age in both males and females, protects against multiple aspects of cellular ageing in rodent models, including oxidative damage, telomere shortening and cellular senescence. Estrogen’s effects are particularly pronounced in the skin where cutaneous changes post-menopause are well documented, and can be partially reversed by classical Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Our research shows that while chronological ageing has clear effects on skin wound healing, falling estrogen levels are the principle mediator of these effects. Thus, both HRT and topical estrogen replacement substantially accelerate healing in elderly humans, but are associated with unwanted deleterious effects, particularly cancer promotion. In fact, much current research effort is being invested in exploring the therapeutic potential of estrogen signalling manipulation to reverse age-associated pathology in peripheral tissues. In the case of the skin the differential targeting of estrogen receptors to promote healing in aged subjects is a real therapeutic possibility.

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Acknowledgments

Dr Emmerson is the David Hammond Charitable Trust Research Associate (The Healing Foundation) and recipient of the BSRA 2010 Korenchevsky award. Dr Hardman is the Edmund de Rothschild Senior Fellow in Ageing Research (Research Into Ageing; Age UK).

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Correspondence to Matthew J. Hardman.

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Emmerson, E., Hardman, M.J. The role of estrogen deficiency in skin ageing and wound healing. Biogerontology 13, 3–20 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10522-011-9322-y

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Keywords

  • Estrogen
  • Ageing
  • Skin
  • Wound healing