Randomized, split-body, single-blinded clinical trial of topical broccoli sprout extract: Assessing the feasibility of its use in keratin-based disorders

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2017 Mar;76(3):449-453.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2016.10.009. Epub 2016 Nov 23.


Background: Epidermolysis bullosa simplex is a skin-blistering disorder caused by mutations in keratin (K)14 or K5. Treatment with nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 inducer sulforaphane ameliorated skin blistering in Krt14-null mice, correlating with induction of K17. To be therapeutically useful for epidermolysis bullosa simplex, topical broccoli sprout extract (BSE), enriched for sulforaphane, would ideally induce the expression of homologous keratins (eg, K6, K17, K16) in the basal layer of human epidermis without impacting expression of defective keratins (K5/K14).

Objective: The purpose of this 1-week, randomized, split-body, single-blinded, placebo-controlled trial was to assess the impact of BSE on keratin expression.

Methods: Five subjects (34-71 years old) applied BSE (500 nmol of sulforaphane/mL) or vehicle alone to the inner aspect of the arm daily. Expression of keratin, nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2, and other markers was assessed using reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction and indirect immunofluorescence.

Results: One subject (age 71 years) was excluded a posteriori because of poor tissue quality. Topical BSE activated nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 and up-regulated K17 in the epidermis of all subjects, had variable effects on K16 and K6 expression, and did not alter expression of K14 or K5.

Limitations: Small sample size is a limitation.

Conclusion: BSE represents an attractive therapeutic candidate for K14-associated epidermolysis bullosa simplex.

Keywords: broccoli sprout extract; epidermolysis bullosa simplex; keratin; nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2; sulforaphane.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Brassica*
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa Simplex / drug therapy*
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa Simplex / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Keratin-14 / genetics
  • Keratin-14 / metabolism
  • Keratin-16 / genetics
  • Keratin-16 / metabolism
  • Keratin-17 / genetics
  • Keratin-17 / metabolism
  • Keratin-5 / genetics
  • Keratin-5 / metabolism
  • Keratin-6 / genetics
  • Keratin-6 / metabolism
  • Keratins / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Seedlings
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects


  • Keratin-14
  • Keratin-16
  • Keratin-17
  • Keratin-5
  • Keratin-6
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • NFE2L2 protein, human
  • Plant Extracts
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Keratins