Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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About Skin - I Thick Skinned

The distinct composition of foot sole skin provides insight into protecting injured skin elsewhere

23 October 2019

Thick Skinned

Compare the skin on the palm and back of your hand. Designed for unique purposes, they’re noticeably different. And skin on the soles of your feet is different again, thick and tough to face the rough road. But when people lose a limb through injury or disease, and have a stump that rests on a prosthetic leg, the skin that grows back is not thick like foot skin, so is unsuited to bearing weight and friction. Re-engineering tougher skin might make prosthetics more comfortable. A new study analysed what makes foot sole skin so strong, and found that beyond its thickness, it's also structured differently. For example there are denser bundles of collagen (yellow in foot sole skin, top, compared to body skin, bottom), a key structural protein. Details like this help build a full picture of this skin - the next challenge is applying that knowledge to patients.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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