Skin wrinkling is brought about by exposure to ultraviolet rays that break down the skin's connective tissues. A team of scientists, however, revealed a groundbreaking discovery about human skin cells that may hold the key to developing powerful anti-aging cosmetics and even cancer-fighting drugs.
Scientists at Newcastle University discovered that the action of a metabolic enzyme found in skin cells drops as one ages. Mitochondrial complex II plays an important role in the energy levels of cells and when its levels decrease, the health of the skin cells decline with it, causing wrinkles.
In the study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the scientists studied the enzyme in skin samples of 27 donors aged 6 to 72 years old. They found that the enzyme's activity significantly reduced with age.
"Our research means that we now have a specific biomarker, or a target, for developing and screening anti-aging treatments and cosmetic creams that may counter this decline in bio-energy," said Mark Birch-Machin, a professor of molecular dermatology at Newcastle University.
Mitochondrial Complex II And Aging
Mitchondrial complex II recently gained scientific interest. Most cells contain mitochondria that produce energy. Cellular respiration is a set of metabolic reactions that happens inside the cells to convert biochemical energy from nutrients into adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the body's basic energy unit, and then releases waste products.
During the process, some electrons in the respiratory chain do not complete the whole process and directly leak to oxygen. This results in the formation of free-radical superoxide, a very reactive molecule that adds to oxidative stress, which has been linked to many diseases and even aging.
"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," said Birch-Machin. This enzyme contributes in making energy in the cells and when its activity is decreased, it leads to reduced bio-energy in the aging skin.
Better Anti-Aging Products
The discovery will pave way for scientists to develop better anti-aging products now that they know the key driver of skin aging. It would be possible to find anti-aging treatments tailored to one's age and skin type and also get treatment for parts of the body that are affected by the aging process.
Further studies are required to fully understand the role of this enzyme in skin health to come up with methods to produce skin products and procedures designed to combat aging.