Scientists at Newcastle University, UK recently discovered that the activity of a major metabolic enzyme present in human skin cells diminishes with age. Another study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology demonstrated how the activity of mitochondrial complex II is significantly reduced on older skin. These recent advances have brought experts closer to developing potent anti-aging treatments and cosmetics tailored to combat the decline in these enzymes’ activities. Moreover, findings such as these could lead to a better understanding of how organs age in the body, paving the way for the development of drugs against various age-related diseases, including cancer.

Breakthrough in Anti Aging: The Culprit Behind Saggy Skin

The novel study was led by Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle University along with Dr Amy Bowman from his research group. According to Birch-Machin, as our cells grow older their ‘batteries’ get exhausted, a phenomena scientifically known as ‘decreased bio-energy’, which results in the increased production of harmful free radicals.

“This process can easily be seen on our skin in the form of increased fine lines, wrinkles and sagging. We have shown for the first time that with increasing age human skin cells experience a specific reduction in the activity of a major metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of these cells. This enzyme forms the center between two important ways of manufacturing energy in our cells, and a decrease in its activity contributes to the decreased bio-energy in aging skin”.

The Study –- Methodology and Findings

Researchers measured complex II activity in 27 donors between the ages of six and 72. Skin samples were taken from sun-protected areas to assess whether any differences existed in enzyme activity with increasing age. Various techniques were used to measure enzymatic activity within the mitochondria, the cell organelle involved in producing a cell’s energy. A form of mitochondrial gym or skin physical was applied to cells obtained from the epidermis (upper) and dermis (lower) layers of the skin.

It was seen that complex II activity significantly decreased with age; the decline was recorded per unit of mitochondria. More importantly, this was seen more prominently in cells derived from the dermis as compared to the epidermis, something that has not been reported previously.

The reason behind this diminishing activity, as claimed by the researchers, is the decreasing amount of enzyme protein, which was observed only in cells that had stopped proliferating.

Importance of Findings

These observations have uncovered a particularly novel biomarker, or target, for the development of cosmetics and anti-aging treatments that could potentially help counter the decrease in bio-energy. Moreover, there is now a possibility of coming up with anti-aging regimes tailored for specific ages and specific skin pigments, along with the idea of fighting the aging process in other places of the body.

“This study brings us one step closer to understanding how these essential cell structures contribute to the process of aging in humans. We hope to eventually target specific areas of the mitochondria in an attempt to counter the signs of aging”, stated Dr Bowman, Research Associate at Newcastle University’s Institute of Cellular Medicine.

Further studies are now needed to completely understand the functional consequences of this enzymatic activity in human skin and other tissues, so that effective and efficient anti-aging processes can be developed and implemented.