Scientists at Newcastle University have recently made a major breakthrough in connection to anti-aging.
Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at the university, led a team of experts in identifying that the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of human skin cells declines with age.
A study, which was published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, has found that the activity of mitochondrial complex II significantly decreases in older skin.
The discovery brings the experts a little closer to developing anti-aging treatments and cosmetic products which can be made to counteract the decline of enzyme’s activity levels.
Other benefits to the findings include an 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.
The professor 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.”
Complex II activity was measured in 27 donors, from aged six to 72 years and 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, a type of mitochondrial gym or skin physical. This was applied to cells derived from the upper (epidermis) and lower (dermis) levels of skin.
It was found that complex II activity sufficiently declined with age, per unit of mitochondria, in the cells derived from the lower rather than the upper levels – which is an observation not previously reported for human skin.
The scientists found out that the reason for this is the amount of enzyme protein was decreased and furthermore, this decrease was only observed in cells which had stopped proliferating.
Further studies will now be undertaken to understand the functional consequences in skin and other tissues and to establish methods to assess anti-ageing strategies in human skin.