Characterisation of a 'blanch-blush' mechano-response in palmer skin

Wright, Thomas C.; Green, Elizabeth; Phillips, James B.; Kostyuk, Oksana and Brown, Robert A. (2006). Characterisation of a 'blanch-blush' mechano-response in palmer skin. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 126(1) pp. 220–226.



Palmar finger skin reacts to extension under mechanical load – blanching over proximal (intercrease skin, ICS) and middle phalanges, while blushing in crease skin (CS), which we have called the Blanch-Blush Reaction (BBR). The idea that the BBR is a result of surface capillary blood flow changes that relate to predictable deformation of aligned collagen matrices under applied uniaxial loads was tested. Nondestructive techniques, digital image analysis (DIA), laser Doppler scanning, and elastic scatter spectroscopy (ESS) were used to measure color and blood flow changes in healthy fingers when at rest and extended. Skin strain increased directly with applied load and DIA identified blanching (loss of redness) in the ICS, reflected by a decrease in hemoglobin (by ESS). Laser Doppler flowmetry identified an increase in blood flow in the CS zone on extension, with a minor increase in blood flow in the ICS zone, apparently due to diversion of flow to deeper vessels, when monitored by this technique. These changes correlated with the BBR, owing to altered capillary flow in the ICS and CS. The histology of orientation of collagen fibers and vessels in the two zones was consistent with this mechanism. This study demonstrates the interdependence between matrix orientation, applied load, and flow. It represents an elegant demonstration of collagenous tissue function through an everyday tissue reaction, which has not been described previously.

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