METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR TREATING
WRINKLES IN SKIN USING RADIATION
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 The invention relates generally to the treatment of wrinkles in human skin using radiation. In particular, the invention relates to a method for treating wrinkles in human skin using a beam of laser or incoherent radiation to cause thermal injury in the dermal region of the skin sufficient to elicit a healing response that produces substantially unwrinkled skin.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
 Undesired wrinkles in skin are commonly seen in dermatologic practice. Wrinkles in skin may be caused by age and by exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays. Human skin consists mainly of two layers: the top layer of skin known as the epidermis; and the layer beneath the epidermis known as the dermis. The dermis is primarily acellular and is composed of water, the protein collagen, and glycosaminoglycans. Water constitutes approximately 70 percent of the total weight of the dermis. Collagen constitutes approximately 70 percent of the dry weight of the dermis, and glycosaminoglycans constitute between approximately 0.1 and 0.3 percent of the dry weight of the dermis. Collagen and glycosaminoglycans are constantly produced by fibroblasts, a type of connective tissue cell, and degraded by enzymes. Collagen degradation relies primarily on specific proteinases known as collagenases.
 Collagen provides the dermis with the majority of its structural integrity. With aging, the amount of dermal collagen decreases and is replaced by the protein elastin. In addition, the remaining collagen tends to be chaotically oriented as compared to the more organized patterns found in youthful skin. Glycosaminoglycans are very hydrophilic, and increased amounts of these carbohydrates are. associated with the increased skin vigor found in youthful skin. One major difference between the smooth, supple skin of newborns and the drier, thinned skin of older individuals is the far greater relative amount of glycosaminoglycans found in newborn skin. The glycosaminoglycans found in newborns can bind up to 1000 times their weight in water. As the skin ages and the amount of glycosaminoglycans decreases, the skin may become less hydrated and lose some of the suppleness found in youth. Also, the remaining glycosaminoglycans in photo-aged skin are deposited on the haphazardly arranged elastin fibers which have replaced the collagen fibers. The placement of the remaining glycosaminoglycans may partially account for the weatherbeaten appearance of photo-aged skin.
 Existing procedures for eliminating or reducing the severity of wrinkles include chemical peels, mechanical abrasion and laser ablation. All of these methods remove the top layer of skin. A new top layer forms during healing. Cosmetic improvement is seen when the skin containing wrinkles is replaced by a new layer of horizontally oriented neocollagen in the superficial dermis. However, all of these methods disrupt and completely remove the epidermis. The resulting open wounds require daily care to optimize wound healing. Epidermal destruction and subsequent healing has several undesirable side effects. These undesirable side effects include prolonged hypopigmentation, hyperpigmen
tation, erythema and edema. Hyperpigmentation occurs frequently in darker skin types as a result ot an inflammatory response of the skin. Hyperpigmentation results in the treated area of the subject's skin turning darker than the surrounding untreated skin. Hyperpigmentation can be slow to clear, sometimes taking up to a year to disappear. Hypopigmentation is attributable to damage to the melanin-producing cells in the skin. While generally transient, hypopigmentation can be permanent, [text missing or illegible when filed] are therefore limited to the most superficial layer of the skin. Such superficial injury leads to an inflammatory healing response characterized by prolonged visible edema and erythema, as well as the possibility for long lasting pigmentary disturbances.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention addresses the foregoing problems and provides a method for inducing remodeling of the skin's extracellular matrix by partially denaturing the dermal collagen deeper in the skin, below the surface, while avoiding injury to the epidermis and upper layers of the dermis. The invention offers numerous advantages over existing dermatologic procedures and devices. The surface of the skin remains intact, thereby avoiding the need for dressing wounds; pigmentary disturbances are minimized; and any inflammatory response to the injury is mild and less visually evident.
 In general, the present invention features a method for treating wrinkles in skin, without removing a layer of skin, using a beam of pulsed, scanned or gated continuous wave (CW) laser or incoherent radiation. The method comprises generating a beam of radiation having a wavelength between 1.3 and 1.8 microns, directing the beam of radiation to a targeted dermal region between 100 microns and 1.2 millimeters below a wrinkle in the skin, and thermally injuring the targeted dermal region to elicit a healing response that produces substantially less wrinkles.
 More specifically, causing selective thermal injury to the dermis activates fibroblasts which deposit increased amounts of extracellular matrix constituents (i.e., collagen and glycosaminoglycans). These increases in extracellular matrix constituents are responsible for dermal skin rejuvenation and the reduced appearance of wrinkles.
 In one embodiment, the beam of radiation causes partial denaturation of the collagen in the targeted dermal region. The partial denaturation of the collagen accelerates the collagen synthesis process by the fibroblasts and the deposition of new glycosaminoglycans, leading to the elimination or a reduction in the severity of the wrinkle. The method may also include cooling the surface of the skin and epidermal tissue above the targeted dermal region while irradiating the skin. The method may also include cooling the surface of the skin prior to irradiating the skin.
 In a detailed embodiment, the method also includes stretching the skin along the wrinkle before directing the beam of radiation to the targeted dermal region below the wrinkle. Stretching the skin causes thermal injury to the collagen fibers across the wrinkle, while not affecting the fibers along the wrinkle.
 The invention also relates to an apparatus for treating wrinkles in skin.