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Lowered humidity produces human epidermal equivalents with enhanced barrier properties.

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Multilayered human keratinocyte cultures increasingly are used to model human epidermis. Until now, studies utilizing human epidermal equivalents (HEEs) have been limited because previous preparations do not establish a normal epidermal permeability barrier. In this report, we show that reducing environmental humidity to 50% relative humidity yields HEEs that closely match human postnatal epidermis and have enhanced repair of the permeability barrier. These cultures display low transepidermal water loss and possess a calcium and pH gradient that resembles those seen in human epidermis. These cultures upregulate glucosylceramide synthase and make normal-appearing lipid lamellar bilayers. The epidermal permeability barrier of these cultures can be perturbed, using the identical tools previously described for human skin, and recover in the same time course seen during in vivo barrier recovery. These cultures will be useful for basic and applied studies on epidermal barrier function.

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