Skincare that includes fragments of two types of newly discovered proteins could one day repair age-induced damage.
The proteins that make up the elastic network in our skin become increasingly damaged with age, due to increased levels of inflammation in our bodies and exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Over time, the damage causes the skin to lose its elasticity and become wrinkled.
As proteins are degraded, they release small protein fragments called peptides. which can initiate skin repair to some extent, However, these are usually released at insufficient levels to reverse the appearance of skin aging to some extent, say Michael Sherrrett at the University of Manchester, UK.
Previously, some researchers have created cosmetic products containing high levels of such peptides, but some of these peptides have been shown to heal skin damage in people.
In research presented March 18 at the American Academy of Dermatology conference in Louisiana, Sherret and colleagues used an artificial intelligence to predict what peptides are produced when proteins in our skin break down. From this, they identified two peptides that they think occur naturally in our skin as a result of damage.
The researchers then applied these peptides to an area of skin on the forearms of eight Caucasian people between the ages of 71 and 84. The treated areas were covered with a polymer patch known to improve the penetration of peptides into the skin.
After participants wore the patch for 12 days, researchers collected 3-millimetre-wide biopsies from the area where the peptides were applied, as well as from other areas that had not been exposed to these peptides.
They found that the peptides significantly increased levels of key protein structures called fibrillin-rich microfibrils, which are known to make skin more elastic, in treated skin compared to other untreated areas. The participants experienced no adverse effects from the treatment.
The researchers did not record whether this increase in protein levels was related to the appearance of more youthful skin, such as fewer wrinkles.
but according to mike bell Walgreens Boots Alliance – a healthcare company that funded the study – in Nottingham, UK, found fibrillin-rich microfibrils increased to levels similar to those that naturally occur in people several years younger than the participants.
The researchers plan to test whether these increased protein levels reduce the appearance of wrinkles in upcoming trials, says Bell, which will include a larger number of participants from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Although the study supports the idea that skin peptides can repair some damage, more work is needed to assess how long the effects last, she says. Raja Shivmani in Integrative Skin Science and Research, a clinical trial unit in Sacramento, Calif.
Further work should also look at whether the apparent anti-aging effects seen in forearm skin translate to facial skin, he says.
If a skincare product is made with Boots’ brand No. 7, you’ll probably need to apply the peptides every day, says Bell.