Put the protein shake down – it’s not that kind that will help you wind back the clock. Scientists from Japan’s Tokyo Medical and Dental University have just discovered the missing link that could be the secret to looking younger. Their radical new finding? A protein which encourages ‘cell competition’ to keep skin looking healthier.
According to the DNA damage theory, as we age our cells become damaged from things like environmental factors, ultraviolet rays, poor diet, and alcohol. Throw in psychological factors like stress and these damaged cells can manifest into common signs of ageing – that is, thinner skin that’s slower to heal. Now whilst it won’t prevent you from dying, the newly discovered protein named COL17A1 could be the answer to keeping skin intact and unimpaired by maintaining tissue fitness.
The science behind it, according to the Japanese university’s Stem Cell Biology department, sees the driving out of weaker cells whilst encouraging the production of stronger cells. “Damaged or stressed stem cells can be selectively eliminated by intact stem cells every day in our skin,” says Emi Nishimura, the professor who led the study at the university.
The study’s not all affirmative news though. Up until this point the researchers have only conducted the experiment on mice tails which share similar properties to human skin. Overlooking this inter-species obstacle, the scientists were able to isolate compounds which could kick-start the skin’s anti-ageing process. Chemical compounds Y27632 and apocynin were both tested on skin cells with both returning positive results.
“Application of these drugs to full-thickness skin wounds significantly promoted wound repair,” said the study. It’s also indicative of “facilitating skin regeneration and reducing skin ageing”.
A secondary study on these findings commissioned by Nature claims that the new research “provides evidence that healthy cells in mammals can also efficiently repopulate adult tissues, replacing unfit or damaged cells”. Professors Ganna Bilousova and James DeGregori also added that the Japanese research provided “proof-of-principle” in the race to slow the process of ageing.
“Future studies are needed to determine the mechanisms of cell competition in other tissues, and to identify compounds capable of reversing ageing in other organs,” they added.
Nishimura meanwhile is a bit more excited about the prospects of their discovery. She told AFP that the work could one day eventuate into creams or tablets designed to stop skin deterioration whilst supporting its repair.
“We are going to collaborate with pharmaceutical or cosmetic companies for the clinical use of the chemicals,” she said. “We are working on other epithelial organs as well to find out (whether) similar competition may underlie long-term tissue maintenance as well as organ ageing.”
Has the fountain of youth finally been found? Only time will tell but until then you can check out the below.