Hyaluronic acid detection and relative quantification by mass spectrometry imaging in human skin tissues



Raphael Legouffe1, Olivier Jeanneton2, Mathieu Gaudin1, Aurore Tomezyk1, Amandine Gerstenberg1, Marc Dumas2, Catherine Heusèle2, David Bonnel1, Jonathan Stauber4, Sylvianne Schnebert2


  1. ImaBiotech, Parc Eurasanté, 152 rue du Docteur Yersin, 59120, Loos, France
  2. LVMH Recherche, 185 Avenue de Verdun, 45804, St Jean de Braye, France
  3. ImaBiotech Corp, 44 Manning Rd, Billerica, MA, 01821, USA


Hyaluronic acid (HA) is a major component of the skin, contributing to tissue hydration and biomechanical properties. As HA content in the skin decreases with age, formulas containing HA are widely used in cosmetics and HA injections in aesthetic procedures to reduce the signs of aging. To prove the beneficial effects of these treatments, efficient quantification of HA levels in the skin is necessary, but remains difficult. A new analytical method has been developed based on matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization mass spectrometry imaging (MALDI-MSI) to quantify HA content in cross sections of human skin explants. A standardized and reproducible chemical entity (3 dimeric motifs or 6-mer) quantifiable by MALDI-MSI was produced by enzymatic hydrolysis using a specific hyaluronidase (H1136) in HA solution. This enzymatic digestion was carried out on skin sections before laser desorption, enabling the detection of HA. Histological coloration allowed us to localize the epidermis and the dermis on skin sections and, by comparison with the MALDI molecular image, to calculate the relative HA concentrations in these tissue areas. Skin explants were treated topically using a formula containing HA or its placebo, and the HA distribution profiles were compared with those obtained from untreated explants. A significant increase in HA was shown in each skin layer following topical application of the formula containing HA versus placebo and untreated samples (average of 126±40% and 92±40%, respectively). The MALDI-MSI technique enabled the quantification and localization of all HA macromolecules (endogenous and exogenous) on skin sections and could be useful for determining the efficacy of new cosmetic products designed to fight the signs of aging.

CovalX Technology Used

Epitope Mapping

Legouffe, R., Jeanneton, O., Gaudin, M. et al. Hyaluronic acid detection and relative quantification by mass spectrometry imaging in human skin tissues. Anal Bioanal Chem 414, 5781–5791 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00216-022-04139-8

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