February 18, 2009

Fat-Synthesizing Enzyme Key to Healthy Skin, Hair

Scientists have discovered that an enzyme associated with the synthesis of fat in the body also promotes healthy skin and hair.

The enzyme is called acyl COA: diacylglycerol acyltransferase or DGAT1. Researchers found mice that lack DGAT1 are lean, resistant to diet-induced obesity, are more sensitive to insulin and leptin and have abnormalities in mammary gland development and skin.

When researchers deleted the enzyme in mice, they found that a lack of DGAT1 caused levels of retinoic acid (RA) to be greatly increased in skin and resulted in the loss of hair. RA, which comes from vitamin A (retinol), has been used to treat skin disorders, such as acne and psoriasis, and certain cancers, but it is fairly toxic and must be carefully controlled.

In mice without DGAT1, the skin was very sensitive to retinol, and they experienced alopecia, or hair loss. Both of these effects could be prevented by depriving the mice of a source of retinol in their diet, researchers said.

"These findings may have implications for the treatment of human skin or hair disorders," the study's lead author Michelle Shih was quoted as saying.

SOURCE: Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2009


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