Transcriptomic Analysis in Human 3D Skin Model Injected with Resorbable Hyaluronic Acid Fillers Reveals Foreign Body Response

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Oct 27;23(21):13046. doi: 10.3390/ijms232113046.


Usage of injectable dermal fillers applied for aesthetic purposes has extensively increased over the years. As such, the number of related adverse reactions has increased, including patients showing severe complications such as product migration, topical swelling and inflammatory reactions of the skin. In order to understand the underlying molecular events of these adverse reactions we performed a genome-wide gene expression study on the multi-cell type human Phenion® Full-Thickness Skin Model exposed to five experimental hyaluronic acid (HA) preparations with increasing cross-linking degree, four commercial fillers from Perfectha®, and non-resorbable filler Bio-Alcamid®. In addition, we evaluated whether cross-linking degree or particle size of the HA-based fillers could be associated with the occurrence of adverse effects. In all cases, exposure to different HA fillers resulted in a clearly elevated gene expression of cytokines and chemokines related to acute inflammation as part of the foreign body response. Furthermore, for one experimental filler genes of OXPHOS complexes I-V were significantly down-regulated (adjusted p-value < 0.05), resulting in mitochondrial dysfunction which can be linked to over-expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines TNFα and IL-1β and chemokine CCL2. Our hypothesis that cross-linking degree or particle size of the HA-based fillers is related to the biological responses induced by these fillers could only partially be confirmed for particle size. In conclusion, our innovative approach resulted in gene expression changes from a human 3D skin model exposed to dermal fillers that mechanistically substantiate aforementioned adverse reactions, and thereby adds to the weight of evidence that these fillers may induce inflammatory and fibrotic responses.

Keywords: 3D skin model; dermal fillers; hyaluronic acid; inflammation; transcriptomics.

MeSH terms

  • Biocompatible Materials / adverse effects
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Dermal Fillers* / adverse effects
  • Foreign Bodies*
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronic Acid / pharmacology
  • Skin Aging*
  • Transcriptome


  • Hyaluronic Acid
  • Dermal Fillers
  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Cytokines