Skin care products containing two types of newly discovered protein fragments may one day repair age-related damage.
The proteins that make up the elastic network of our skin become more and more damaged as we age, due to increased inflammation in our bodies and exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Over time, the lesion loses its elasticity and becomes wrinkled.
When proteins break down, small protein fragments called peptides are released, which can initiate some skin healing. However, they are usually released in insufficient amounts to even somewhat reverse the signs of skin aging, says Michael Sherratt of the University of Manchester in the UK.
In the past, some researchers produced cosmetic products containing large amounts of such peptides, but few of these peptides actually repaired skin damage in humans.
In research presented on March 18 at the American Academy of Dermatology conference in Louisiana, Sherratt and his colleagues used artificial intelligence to predict which peptides are produced when proteins break down in our skin. From this, they identified two peptides that they believe occur naturally in our skin as a result of damage.
The researchers applied these peptides to the forearm skin of eight Caucasian individuals aged 71 to 84 years. The treated areas were covered with a polymer patch, which can improve the penetration of peptides into the skin.
After the participants wore the patch for 12 days, the researchers performed a 3-millimeter-wide biopsy of the area where the peptides were attached and other areas that were not exposed to the peptides.
They found that the peptides significantly increased the amount of important protein structures called fibrillin-rich microfibrils, which are known to make skin more elastic, in treated skin compared to untreated areas. The participants experienced no side effects from the treatment.
The researchers did not record whether this increase in protein concentration correlated with a more youthful appearance of the skin, such as reduced wrinkles.
But Mike Bell of the Walgreens Boots Alliance, which funded the study in Nottingham, UK, found that the number of fibrillin-rich microfibrils increased to levels similar to those naturally occurring in people several years younger than the participants.
The researchers plan to test whether these advanced proteins reduce the appearance of wrinkles in future trials involving more participants from different ethnic backgrounds, Bell says.
Although research supports the idea that skin peptides can repair some damage, more work is needed to assess how long the effects last, says Raja Sivamani of the clinical trial in Sacramento, California, at Integrative Skin Science and Research.
Further work should also determine whether the apparent antiaging effects seen in forearm skin translate to facial skin, he says.
If they’re made into a skincare product like Boots’ No7 brand, you’ll probably need to apply the peptides every day to maintain the anti-ageing effect, says Bell.