A new study conducted by the Harvard Medical School suggests that a vital component in the human body called the "younger gene" is responsible for allowing individuals to maintain their youthful appearance despite their advanced age.

Harvard dermatology professor Alexa Kimball led a team of researchers in identifying the "genetic recipe" for youthful skin. They analyzed data collected from one million people through the help of a private genetic database named 23andMe.

The researchers discovered that the younger gene is present in around 10 percent of white Americans and 20 percent of black Americans. The team believes that this gene has helped make these individuals look 10 years younger than they actually were.

These findings could help explain how celebrities, such as Hollywood actress Halle Berry, 48, and supermodel Iman, 59, could retain their youthful looks.

According to the findings, the genes can be grouped into seven categories that correspond to various functions in the body. These include repairing the DNA, maintaining the junctions between cells of the skin and protecting the skin from the harmful effects of environmental factors.

Kimball and her colleagues are interested in particular with a category of the gene that produces lamellar bodies in the skin. These elements, in turn, produce waxes, lipids, fat-containing molecules and other nutrients that help maintain the moisture of the skin.

"Many of us felt that people with darker skin aged better because of more pigment and better photo [sunlight] protection, but we have found there is much more to it than that," Kimball said.

"They have other characteristics in their skin which confer good ageing, which until now we had no idea about."

An earlier study conducted by the Manchester University in the United Kingdom has explored the possibility that people with black skin age better than those with white skin.

Chris Griffiths, a professor of dermatology at Manchester, found that a spongy material between skin cells called extracellular matrix maintain a better structure among black people.

The results of the Harvard Medical School study are being presented at the World Congress of Dermatology in Vancouver, Canada. They will appear in several series of publications later in the year, including the International Journal of Dermatology.

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