Ceramides play critical roles in holding water (keeping the skin moist) and providing barrier functions (protecting the body against invasion by foreign substances). There are twelve classes of ceramides in the stratum corneum of human skin. They can be further divided into 350 species of ceramides that result from varying the carbon chain lengths of fatty acid and sphingoid moieties. With the use of normal-phase liquid chromatography coupled with electrospray ionization mass spectrometry, Kao has developed an analytical method that allows for comprehensive, fast, and high-sensitivity quantification of ceramide molecules identified in the human stratum corneum. The new method, requiring only one stratum corneum stripping tape as small as 1-cm2, can now determine the pattern of ceramide species variations depending on different skin conditions or different body regions. The results of analysis of ceramides in the stratum corneum of healthy subjects and patients with atopic dermatitis are shown below; each peak represents the molecular species and levels of ceramides. The results show that the stratum corneum of patients with atopic dermatitis has fewer high-molecular-weight ceramides and more low-molecular-weight ones. There was also a tendency for such patients to have few highly polar ceramides (J Invest Dermatol 130 (2010) 2511).
This analysis technique has allowed for more detailed understanding of ceramide species which are deeply associated with skin conditions.
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