Scanning Microscopy


Particle probe methods (electron probe and proton probe X-ray microanalysis) have been applied to investigate the distribution of elements and water over the different layers of the epidermis. For major elements, electron probe X-ray microanalysis (XRMA) provides the advantage of superior spatial resolution, but for trace element analysis the more sensitive proton probe (particle induced X-ray emission, PIXE) analysis has to be used. On a dry weight basis, the concentration of S is rather constant across the epidermis, whereas the concentrations of P, K, Cl and Na show gradients with high levels in stratum germinativum (basale) and stratum spinosum but low levels in the stratum granulosum and stratum corneum. Essentially, Fe and Zn are confined to the basal region in normal skin. The concentration of Ca, however, increased steadily from the basal region to the stratum corneum. The probe technique allows quantitative analysis of stratum-specific changes in elemental content in a variety of pathological conditions, e.g., changes induced by nickel, detergents and other chemicals, or in psoriatic skin. Of particular interest are findings of increased Fe and Zn in non-involved psoriatic skin. Since the different layers of the skin have different elemental concentrations and react differently under pathological conditions, the probe techniques are far superior to bulk chemical analysis in elucidating physiological and pathological processes in the skin.

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