The Potential Role of Topically Applied Heparan Sulfate in the Treatment of Photodamage

J Drugs Dermatol. 2015 Jul;14(7):669-74.


Heparan sulfate is an essential glycosaminoglycan that plays important roles in development, homeostasis, and disease. As a group, the glycosaminoglycans provide mechanical strength to skin, as they can absorb water and occupy the space between elastin fibers and collagen. Heparan sulfate is also a key participant in cell proliferation, cell migration, collagen fiber formation, basement membrane regeneration, granulation tissue formation, and cell adhesion associated with wound healing. A variety of dermatological disorders are associated with changes in glycosaminoglycans or their associated proteoglycans. A new topical formulation of low molecular weight heparan sulfate glycosaminoglycan has been shown to penetrate the epidermis, basement membrane, and dermis within 24 hours of application. In an 8-week study, 15 patients using this new formulation showed improvement in skin hydration, skin firmness, skin elasticity, skin barrier function, and global fine lines and wrinkles. Incorporating low molecular weight heparan sulfate into topically applied formulations may represent a new approach to improving the appearance of photodamaged skin.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Dermatologic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Heparitin Sulfate / administration & dosage
  • Heparitin Sulfate / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Skin / drug effects
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Skin Aging / drug effects*


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Heparitin Sulfate