Introduction: Skin biopsies can be used to evaluate physiological effects of aging targeted intervention at the tissue/cellular levels. Recent clinical trials have shown that hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) can target aging hallmarks, including telomere shortening, senescent cells clearance and angiogenesis. The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of HBOT on the skin of a normal, non-pathological, aging population.

Methods: The study was performed as a prospective clinical trial. After signing informed consent and undergoing baseline evaluations, the subjects were assigned to a three-month control period followed by three months of HBOT daily sessions. Skin biopsies were taken at baseline, after three months of no intervention (control) and 1-2 weeks following the last HBOT session. Trichrome, Orecin, lipofuscin and CD31 staining were used to evaluate collagen fibers, elastic fibers, senescent cells and blood vessels, respectively.

Results: Out of the cohort of 70 participants in the normal aging population study, thirteen male patients (age 68.07±2.5y) gave consent for repeated skin biopsies. Following HBOT, there was a significant increase in collagen density (p<0.001, effect size(es)=1.10), elastic fiber length (p<0.0001, es=2.71) and the number of blood vessels (p=0.02, es=1.00). There was a significant decrease in fiber fragmentation (p=0.012) and in tissue senescent cells (p=0.03, es=0.84) post-HBOT. No changes were noted in elastic fiber density or thickness.

Conclusions: The study indicates, for the first time in humans, that HBOT can significantly modulate the pathophysiology of the skin aging in a healthy aging population. The demonstrated mechanisms include angiogenesis and senescent cell clearance.