PhotoIt seems that skin cells are becoming a hot topic of discussion in the scientific community lately. After last week’s report on how skin cells are being used to fight brain cancer, researchers are now saying that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how skin cells relate to the aging process.

A team from Newcastle University in the UK has discovered that a certain metabolic enzyme found in the “batteries” of human skin cells becomes much less active as we age. The researchers are hopeful that the new information will allow for new and improved anti-aging treatments.

Discovering a target

Professor Mark Birch-Machin led the study and explains just how our skin is affected by the aging process. “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,” he said.

However, up to this point, scientists never had a specific target for treatments that could mitigate this process. It is what makes this study’s findings so important. “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,” said Birch-Machin.

The research team found this biomarker by measuring the activity of mitochondrial complex II in 27 donors; they ranged in age from six years old to 72. After taking samples from each donor, the researchers saw that activity in mitochondrial complex II was down in donors that were older.

Further implications

The discovery may have implications that go far beyond the cosmetic, though. The research may allow scientists to understand how our organs age as well, which could prove to be crucial in understanding age-related diseases like cancer.

Going forward, the researchers will continue to try to better understand cells in our skin and tissues. With additional research, they hope that anti-aging strategies can be created. “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,” said Dr. Amy Bowman.

The full study has been published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology

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