Deferiprone Stimulates Aged Dermal Fibroblasts via HIF-1α Modulation

Aesthet Surg J. 2021 Mar 12;41(4):514-524. doi: 10.1093/asj/sjaa142.


Background: Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α (HIF-1α), a transcription factor responsible for tissue homeostasis and regeneration, presents reduced functionality in advanced age. In addition to absence of oxygen, sequestration of iron also stimulates HIF-1α. Therefore, we analyzed the efficacy of the iron-chelator deferiprone (DFP) at stimulating dermal fibroblasts.

Objectives: The main objective of this study was to quantify the DFP concentrations capable of stimulating dermal fibroblasts in vitro and to correlate the effective DFP concentrations with the ability of DFP to penetrate the epidermis, reach the dermis, and activate HIF-1α in vivo.

Methods: We measured cell proliferation, metabolic activity, HIF-1α expression, and lactate dehydrogenase levels of both young and aged fibroblasts after a 24-hour in vitro preconditioning with DFP. In addition, we evaluated cell survival rates and morphology with different cellular stainings. Finally, we performed a transdermal permeation study with a 1% DFP topical formulation to quantify the concentration required to reach the dermis.

Results: In vitro administration of iron-chelation therapy (156-312.5 µg/mL DFP ) on aged fibroblasts resulted in activation of various antiaging processes. The concentration required to reach the dermis within 24 hours was 1.5% (0.15 mg/mL), which corresponds well with the effective doses of our laboratory analyses.

Conclusions: The activation of HIF-1α by DFP enhances cell metabolism, proliferation, and survival of fibroblasts while reducing lactate dehydrogenase levels. Modulation of HIF-1α is linked to activation of key regeneration enzymes and proteins, and by proxy, antiaging. Therefore, the antiaging properties of DFP and its satisfactory dermal penetration make it a promising regenerative agent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Proliferation
  • Deferiprone
  • Epidermis
  • Fibroblasts*
  • Gene Expression Regulation*


  • Deferiprone