analysis of lipidsWhen this research study on the gas chromatographymass spectrometry profiling of lipids on human skin crossed my desk, I must admit to a little bafflement as I could not figure out how this would be used. Once I read the paper, I felt a little foolish because the answer was so obvious and important!

Researchers from three departments at the Université de Paris-Sud, France, conducted the study with the purpose of developing “a simple analytical protocol using a noninvasive sampling method without time consuming sample preparation steps that would provide a qualitative characterization of individual SSL compounds and a quantitative evaluation of different lipid classes.” (Note: SSL stands for skin surface lipids.)

The study, High-temperature gas chromatography-mass spectrometry for skin surface lipids profiling, (downloadable full, free PDF) describes the importance of skin surface lipids (SSLs) in maintaining the protective barrier of the skin against pathogens, transporting anti-aging antioxidants to the skin’s surface, and keeping the skin moist among other functions. By the way, over 200 compounds were identified in a sample of SSLs taken from the forehead of a volunteer! The researchers grouped the compounds into the following five lipid classes: free fatty acids, hydrocarbons, waxes, sterols, and glycerides, with each lipid class performing a specific function for the skin as mentioned above.

The beautiful accompanying photo is of a human sebaceous and sweat gland photographed at 10x magnification.

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The samples were collected using lipid-free absorbent papers on the forehead, back, thorax, forearm, thigh, and calf of the human volunteer, a 26-year woman. For the method development, they used one of our gas chromatographs (Thermo Scientific Trace GC Ultra Gas Chromatograph) equipped with an on-column injector coupled to one of our single quadrupole mass spectrometers (Thermo Scientific DSQ II Single Quadrupole GC/MS) via a high-temperature interface.

The other interesting finding, I thought, was that the researchers found that the SSL composition from all six areas of the human body was the same. The researchers sum up their efforts by concluding that this method “could be of a great interest for establishing the proof for medical treatment efficacy in diseases such as acne, atopic dermatitis, seborrhea, or psoriasis. More generally, this method can be extended to numerous other applications in medical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, and alimentary fields where complex lipid mixtures are involved.”

Have you read any similar research studies using our instruments? Do share using the Comments box below; we would like to hear from you!