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Wondering how to stop you becoming grizzled, weathered and wrinkled - the aptly named, Granzyme B may be the key.

Scientists have stumbled on an enzyme related to aging, especially photo-aging due to sunlight.

Testing this theory, researchers found that certain mice -- those that were engineered to lack this enzyme - showed no outward sign of age, in spite of high UV exposure.

Given 80 to 90% of visible skin aging is due to sunlight, the scientists built a rodent tanning salon and put the mice through tanning sessions.

The mice that were ‘natural’ became deeply wrinkled after 3 sessions a week for 20 weeks, while the ‘genetically engineered’ Granzyme B–deficient mice had unblemished skin. The research race is now on to develop products that block Granzyme B.

In the modern day search for everlasting youth women (and men) regard wrinkles as a curse. That is music to the ears of the science and the beauty industry that have embraced rugis (the Latin word for crinkly skin) as a lucrative challenge.

Mark Twain once wrote that, ‘Wrinkles should merely indicate where the smiles have been’ -- perfectly natural. That is a lovely thought – but for many just not comforting enough.

So believe it or not - Shar Peis and mice could be the key to non-stop youthful good looks. Researchers in Barcelona set out to do a study of Shar Pei dogs – a breed that has excessive wrinkling. Shar Peis (the name translates to ‘sand skin’) originated in China during the Han dynasty, around the time of Christ.

Shar Peis have a condition called ‘mucinosis’ – and in these dogs the condition causes a build up of hyaluronic acid in both skin and blood stream. It turns out that Shar Peis have too much of the HAS2 enzyme that leads to a build up of hyaluronic acid that makes them rather rumpled. Scientist studying the genetics of Shar Peis now know the genetic cause of mucinosis, the next step would be pinpointing the exact genetic location.

Wait a minute … isn’t hyaluronic acid sold in anti-wrinkling creams. Yep…. and because of its ability to plump the skin in the right quantities. In the world of skin serums, a decade ago another ‘acid’, ascorbic acid or vitamin C was the buzzword. The combination of both are often used to create hyaluronic acid serums, eye creams and masks, with new ‘fountain of youth’ promises.

Hyaluronic acid serums help skin appear well hydrated and more youthful.

A simple look at skin structure and understanding the role of elastin, collagen and hyaluronic acid:

Elastin helps skin retains elasticity and suppleness; Collagen is essentially the infrastructure, a scaffold of fibres Hyaluronic acid binds water and helps hydrate skin.

As we age, all these three deteriorate, causing wrinkles to appear.

In a future world of personalized medicine, these ongoing discoveries could lead to people being given vaccines to prevent wrinkles.

As a skin cancer academic, one of my main interests is in sun-protection and sunscreens.

I run a skin research lab in California, mostly developing innovative skin creams and UV protecting agents. Around where we are located, there is a hive of cosmetics-research activity and hyaluronic acid may be the new honey.

For the time being common sense is one of the best preventatives - here are the Three S’s for beautiful skin: Avoiding too much sunlight, Stopping smoking Eating superoxide-rich foods – think ABC for foods such as artichokes, blueberries and cantaloupe melons.


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