Vascular Responses in Human Skin

Geraldine F. Clough and Martin K. Church

School of Medicine, University of Southampton

Our knowledge of microvascular function, both normal and abnormal, is derived largely from in vitro studies of isolated tissues or cells or from intravital studies of whole microvascular beds in animal models. Where investigation of the human microcirculation has been performed, it has generally been restricted to the observation of the more accessible microcirculatory beds, such as that of the skin. This short review will focus on those data obtained in humans, in vivo.

As modulation of endothelial function is an early and important event in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease and is common to most organs of the body, the dermal microvasculature bed is frequently used as a functional model in which to study endothelial function in humans in vivo. Also, because of its ease of access, the skin and its circulation has been used as an experimental test bed for the development of investigative tools, many of which have been transferred to a clinical setting. Some of the investigative techniques developed in the skin are now well established and widely used in both a research and a clinical setting for the investigation and diagnosis of altered cardiovascular function in vascular beds other than the superficial vessels of the skin.

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