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Vascular responses of the extremities to transdermal application of vasoactive agents in Caucasian and African descent individuals

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Purpose - Individuals of African descent (AFD) are more susceptible to non-freezing cold injury than Caucasians (CAU) which may be due, in part, to differences in the control of skin blood flow. We investigated the skin blood flow responses to transdermal application of vasoactive agents.

- Twenty-four young males (12 CAU and 12 AFD) undertook three tests in which iontophoresis was used to apply acetylcholine (ACh 1 w/v %), sodium nitroprusside (SNP 0.01 w/v %) and noradrenaline (NA 0.5 mM) to the skin. The skin sites tested were: volar forearm, non-glabrous finger and toe, and glabrous finger (pad) and toe (pad).

Results - In response to SNP on the forearm, AFD had less vasodilatation for a given current application than CAU (P = 0.027–0.004). ACh evoked less vasodilatation in AFD for a given application current in the non-glabrous finger and toe compared with CAU (P = 0.043–0.014) with a lower maximum vasodilatation in the non-glabrous finger (median [interquartile], AFD n = 11, 41[234] %, CAU n = 12, 351[451] %, P = 0.011) and non-glabrous toe (median [interquartile], AFD n = 9, 116[318] %, CAU n = 12, 484[720] %, P = 0.018). ACh and SNP did not elicit vasodilatation in the glabrous skin sites of either group. There were no ethnic differences in response to NA.

Conclusion - AFD have an attenuated endothelium-dependent vasodilatation in non-glabrous sites of the fingers and toes compared with CAU. This may contribute to lower skin temperature following cold exposure and the increased risk of cold injuries experienced by AFD.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1801-1811
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Applied Physiology
Issue number8
Early online date4 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015


  • Vascular responses of the extremities

    Rights statement: This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. The final authenticated version is available online at:

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 256 KB, PDF document

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