A new anti-aging breakthrough uses human skin cell enzymes to open a new pathway for treatment. The researchers from Newcastle University tracked the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of the human skin declines as we age. The new breakthrough brings us closer to powerful anti-aging treatments.
The findings also offer insight into how other bodily organs function and age, which could eventually lead to drugs combating age-related illnesses.
Study lead Mark Birch-Machin said, “As our bodies age, we see that the batteries in our cells run down, known as decreased bio-energy, and harmful free radicals increase. This process is easily seen in our skin as increased fine lines, wrinkles, and sagging appears. You know the story, or at least your mirror does first thing in the morning! Our study shows, for the first time, in human skin that with increasing age there is a specific decrease in the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of the skin cells.”
“This enzyme is the hinge between the two important ways of making energy in our cells and a decrease in its activity contributes to decreased bio-energy in ageing skin. Our research means that we now have a specific biomarker, or a target, for developing and screening anti-ageing treatments and cosmetic creams that may counter this decline in bio-energy. There is now a possibility of finding anti-ageing treatments which can be tailored to differently aged and differently pigmented skin, and with the additional possibility to address the ageing process elsewhere in our bodies,” explained Birch-Machin.
Complex II activity was measured in 27 donors over the age of 72 years. Samples were taken from sun-protected areas to determine any differences in activity through aging.
Complex II activity was shown to significantly decline with aging in cells of the lower level, not the upper. The researchers explain that the amount of enzyme protein was decreased and the decrease was only observed in cells that stopped proliferation.
Dr. Amy Bowman, fellow researcher, added, “Our work brings us one step closer to understanding how these vital cell structures may be contributing to human ageing, with the hope of eventually specifically targeting areas of the mitochondria in an attempt to counteract the signs of ageing.”
Fibroblasts in the skin can reduce impact of aging on the skin and help repair wounds as found by previous research. The researchers identified unique properties of fibroblasts – cells responsible for hair growth and repairing skin wounds – which could pave the way for repairing injured skin and reducing the effects of aging.
Fibroblasts are responsible for producing collagen and other proteins. Researchers found there are two types of fibroblasts: those found in the upper layer and those found in the lower. The researchers found that the quantity of fibroblasts can be increased, which could lead to treatments to reduce scarring.
Lead author Professor Leona Watt said, “Changes to the thickness and composition of the skin as we age mean that older skin is more prone to injury and takes longer to heal. It is possible that this reflects a loss of upper dermal fibroblasts and therefore it may be possible to restore the skin’s elasticity by finding ways to stimulate those cells to grow. Such an approach might also stimulate hair growth and reduce scarring.”
“Although an early study, our research sheds further light on the complex architecture of the skin and the mechanisms triggered in response to skin wounds. The potential to enhance the skin’s response to injury and aging is hugely exciting. However, clinical trials are required to examine the effectiveness of injecting different types of fibroblasts into the skin of humans,” added Watt.
Dr. Paul Colville-Nash concluded, “These findings are an important step in our understanding of how the skin repairs itself following injury and how that process becomes less efficient as we age. The insights gleaned from this work will have wide-reaching implications in the area of tissue regeneration and have the potential to transform the lives of patients who have suffered major burns and trauma.”