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Prof. Dr. med. Dipl. Biol. Christoph M. Schempp
Dr. rer. nat. Ute Wölfle (Biologin / Leitung Labor)
Birgit Haarhaus (Biologisch-technische Assistentin)
Dr. med. Julia Hoffmann (Prüfärztin)
Cand. Med. Jasmin Seiwerth (Doktorandin)
Cand. Med. Lea Zimmermann (Doktorandin)
Beatrix Starke (Study Nurse)
PD Dr. Huber & Dr. Gründemann (Unizentrum für Naturheilkunde)
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Lademann (Center of Experimental & Applied Cutaneous Physiology Charité Berlin)
Prof. Irmgard Merfort (Institut für Pharmazeutische Wissenschaften)
Dr. Karl-Werner Quirin (Flavex Naturextrakte Rehlingen)
Dr. med. Jan Vagedes (ARCIM Institute Filderstadt / Bonlanden)
Dr. Stefan Wissel (HWI Analytik Rülzheim)

Research centre skinitial:
Integrative research on natural compounds, dermopharmacy and photodermatology


Research activities of skinitial are dedicated to the investigation of beneficial effects of plant extracts on the skin. Standardized plant extracts and secondary plant metabolites contain a variety of natural compounds with therapeutic relevance, such as free radical scavenging, antiinflammatory and antimicrobial substances. The dermatologic usability of most of these compounds is only partly explored. The efficacy and skin tolerability of natural compounds in topical preparations depends on the liberation and penetration of the compounds from the vehicle, a scientific field covered by dermopharmacy. Natural compounds used in dermatology should not display toxic, skin sensitizing or phototoxic properties. The compounds are screened in cell culture using molecular methods. Subsequently their tolerability and effectivity is assessed in vivo using patch tests or the ultraviolet erythema test (photodermatology). The integrative approach of skinitial is expressed by interdisciplinary research projects with natural sciences such as allergology, pharmacy and biology, as well as complementary research and therapies.

Scientific projects

Bitter taste receptors and the skin
During the last years it was discovered that bitter taste receptors (T2Rs) are not only present on the tongue and upper gastrointestinal tract but also in the lung. The binding of bitter substances to bitter taste receptors in the lung induces bronchodilation what may be of therapeutic use in the treatment of asthma bronchiale. The research centre skinitial could show that the skin also possesses bitter taste receptors. (Picture 1: Flowers of yellow gentian (Gentiana lutea) / Photo: Ursel Bühring & Picture 2: Bitter taste receptors of the skin / Drawing: Matthias Emde)

Plant derived bitter agents from gentian (amarogentin) or willow bark (salicin) bind to bitter taste receptors in the skin and induce calcium influx into keratinocytes. This eventually leads to the synthesis of lipids and proteins. Thus the binding of bitter substances to bitter taste receptors stimulates the regeneration of the skin barrier. Moreover, bitter agents display antiallergic effects on immunocompetent cells of the skin. (Picture 3: Interaction of amarogentin with immunocompetent cells of the skin / Drawing: Ute Wölfle)

Tannins in the treatment of skin inflammation
Tannins represent another group of plant polyphenols with prominent antioxidative properties. Moreover, tannins chemically react with proteins and have therefore been used for the tanning of leather. In the molecular range tannins are highly effective immune modulators and anticancer agents. Today, plant derived tannins are mainly used in anthroposophic medicine as therapeutics that regulate increased cell proliferation, edema and atopic diseases. Skinitial is performing clinical and experimental research on tannin containing plants such as oak bark and tormentil (Potentilla officinalis). (Picture 4: Tormentil (Potentilla officinalis) / Photo: Christoph Schempp)

Interactions of antioxidants and the skin
Oxidative stress plays an important role in skin aging, inflammation and the induction of certain skin cancers. Therefore, antioxidants are interesting actives for the prevention and treatment of these skin conditions. Antioxidants may neutralize reactive oxygen species induced by ultraviolet radiation.  The most important antioxidants for the skin are the vitamins E and C, ubichinon (coenzyme Q10), carotinoids und plant polyphenols. The group of polyphenols includes resveratrol, tannins and flavonoids such as quercetin and luteolin. They are often used as active ingredients in cosmetics and food supplements due to their potent radical scavenging activity. Skinitial has focused its research on the flavonoid luteolin and the plant Reseda luteola, and their effects on UV-induced inflammation and photoaging. (Picture 5: Yellow weld (Reseda luteola) / Photo: Margitta Paprotka-Kühne)

Effects of birch bark extract on the skin
Skinitial has performed clinical and experimental studies to explore the effects of birch bark extract and betulin on the skin. Our research revealed that betulins induce skin differentiation. Skinitial  also has conducted non interventional pilot studies that have shown that topical betulin is effective in the treatment of skin conditions with an impaired skin barrier such as burns, acute eczema, superficial wounds and intertrigo. (Picture 6: Birch bark with cork and cambium / Photo: Christoph Schempp)


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