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Research from Pedro Moura Alves shows that the main pigment in Henna activates the Aryl Hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) to regulate skin homeostasis.

The skin dye Henna has been used in traditional medicine to treat a range of complaints including infections, inflammation and cancer. However, the mechanism for its action was not understood. In this paper in Scientific Reports, Pedro Moura Alves and colleagues identify that the major pigment in Henna, Lawsone, can directly bind and activate the AhR. The AhR is a transcription factor that can respond to many binding partners to regulate the expression of multiple target genes. In the skin, the AhR has already been linked to tissue regeneration, response to infection and inflammation. This research shows that Henna acts via the AhR to impair wound healing by decreasing proliferation and promoting differentiation of skin cells. By contrast, Henna also reduces inflammation, which can be beneficial in cases of skin irritation and makes Henna a potential therapy for hyperproliferative skin diseases such as dermatitis.