In situ production of ROS in the skin by photodynamic therapy as a powerful tool in clinical dermatology

Methods. 2016 Oct 15:109:190-202. doi: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2016.07.008. Epub 2016 Jul 12.


Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a clinical modality of photochemotherapy based on the accumulation of a photosensitizer in target cells and subsequent irradiation of the tissue with light of adequate wavelength promoting reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation and cell death. PDT is used in several medical specialties as an organ-specific therapy for different entities. In this review we focus on the current dermatological procedure of PDT. In the most widely used PDT protocol in dermatology, ROS production occurs by accumulation of the endogenous photosensitizer protoporphyrin IX after treatment with the metabolic precursors 5-methylaminolevulinic acid (MAL) or 5-aminolevulinic acid (ALA). To date, current approved dermatological indications of PDT include actinic keratoses (AK), basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and in situ squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) also known as Bowen disease (BD). With regards to AKs, PDT can also treat the cancerization field carrying an oncogenic risk. In addition, an increasing number of pathologies, such as other skin cancers, infectious, inflammatory or pilosebaceous diseases are being considered as potentially treatable entities with PDT. Besides the known therapeutic properties of PDT, there is a modality used for skin rejuvenation and aesthetic purposes defined as photodynamic photorejuvenation. This technique enables the remodelling of collagen, which in turn prevents and treats photoaging stygmata. Finally we explore a new potential treatment field for PDT determined by the activation of follicular bulge stem cells caused by in situ ROS formation.

Keywords: Clinical indications; Dermatology; Photorejuvenation; Protoporphyrin-IX; Reactive oxygen species; Tissue regeneration.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Dermatology / methods
  • Dermatology / trends*
  • Humans
  • Photochemotherapy*
  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Protoporphyrins / therapeutic use
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / isolation & purification
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism*
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin / radiation effects*
  • Skin Diseases / therapy


  • Photosensitizing Agents
  • Protoporphyrins
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • protoporphyrin IX