London | For the first time, scientists have identified that the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of human skin cells declines with age, an advance that may lead to powerful anti-ageing treatments.
The study by researchers at the Newcastle University in UK has found that the activity of mitochondrial complex II significantly decreases in older skin. This discovery brings experts a step closer to developing powerful anti-ageing treatments and cosmetic products which may be tailored to counteract the decline in the enzyme’s activity levels, researchers said.
The findings may also lead to a greater understanding of how other organs in the body age, which could pave the way for drug developments in a number of age-related diseases, including cancer. As our bodies age we see that the batteries in our cells run down, known as decreased bio-energy, and harmful free radicals increase, said Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle University, who led the study with Dr Amy Bowman.
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, he said.
Researchers said 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, Birch-Machin said.
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, he said. Complex II activity was measured in 27 donors, aged six to 72 years.
Samples were taken from a sun-protected area of skin to determine if there was a difference in activity with increasing age. Techniques were used to measure the activities of the key enzymes within mitochondria that are involved in producing the skin cell’s energy.
This was applied to cells derived from the upper (epidermis) and lower (dermis) levels of skin. It was found that complex II activity significantly declined with age, per unit of mitochondria, in the cells derived from the lower rather than the upper levels, an observation not previously reported for human skin. The study was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.
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