Powerful anti-ageing treatments which banish wrinkles for good are a step closer after scientists found the enzyme responsible for youthful skin.
For the first time, scientists at Newcastle University have discovered that ‘mitochondrial complex II’ stops working properly as people grow older.
The enzyme is found in the batteries of cells – the mitochondria – and is crucial for keeping skin smooth, supple and plumped up.
Now that they know what is responsible for youthful skin, scientists believe they will be able to create treatments and cosmetics which increase the activity of the enzyme, and restore lost vitality.
Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle University, led the pioneering study.
“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 Prof Birch-Machin.
“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.
“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.”
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.
Complex II activity was measured in 27 donors, from 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. It was found that complex II activity significantly declined with age.
The scientists found that the reason for this is the amount of enzyme protein was decreased and furthermore this decrease was only observed in those cells that had stopped proliferating.
Dr Amy Bowman,Research Associate at Newcastle University’s Institute of Cellular Medicine, said: “It has long been thought that mitochondria play an important role in the ageing process, however the exact role has remained unclear.
“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.”