20-hydroxyecdysone has numerous favorable effects on a variety of organs, including the skin, where it improves wound healing. It is devoid of estrogenic and androgenic effects. Therefore, application of 20-hydroxyecdysone might be a new approach to improve skin conditions in postmenopausal women, and this was investigated in ovariectomized (OVX) rats.
After ovariectomy, rats received Ecd (18, 57, or 116 mg/animal/day) or 17β-estradiol (E2)-3-benzoate (60 μg/kg body weight) in food for 12 weeks, and skin samples were evaluated histologically to quantify two dermal layers, the subcutaneous fat and muscle layers.
Epidermal thickness was lowest in the OVX animals, slightly higher in the E2-treated animals, and significantly higher in the Ecd-treated animals. Dermal thickness was lowest in the intact and E2-treated animals and highest in the Ecd-treated animals. The subcutaneous fat layer was thickest in the OVX animals, thinner in the intact animals, and intermediate in the Ecd-treated animals. The muscle layer was smallest in the OVX and intact animals and significantly larger in the E2- and Ecd-treated animals. The number of proliferating cell nuclear antigen antibody-positive cells was lowest in OVX controls and significantly higher in all other groups.
The Ecd-induced increases in epidermal and dermal thickness are suggestive of functional changes of the skin. The decreased amounts of subcutaneous fat in the E2- and Ecd-treated animals point to either a fat catabolic or an antianabolic effect. The ovariectomy-induced decrease in subcutaneous musculature was prevented by Ecd but not by E2. The stimulatory effects of Ecd on epidermal and dermal thickness and the muscle-increasing effects in the skin of OVX rats may indicate functional changes of the skin.