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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 March, 2005, 01:30 GMT
Clue to helping skin look young
Skin
Crow's feet: A classic sign of ageing
Researchers say they may have found a clue to how to rejuvenate the skin and slow the ageing process.

Wrinkles and the leathery feel of old skin are known to be linked to a loss of elasticity in the skin tissues.

Now a team from New York's Clarkson University has found the problem could be down to individual epithelial cells becoming more rigid with age.

Details, reported in New Scientist, were originally published in Physics and Medicine in Biology.

The skin is an organ which is exposed to particular challenges from the environment over a lifetime
Professor Stuart Parker
Scientists have known for a long time that human epithelial tissues lose elasticity with ageing.

The process is thought to play a role in many progressive diseases of ageing, including hardening of the arteries, joint stiffness, cataracts, Alzheimer's and dementia.

However, previous researchers believed the reason for the loss was only the "glue" that seals the epithelial tissues - the extra cellular proteins - rather than the cells themselves.

Many treatments of diseases caused by cell elasticity loss have been based on this assumption.

The Clarkson team has found that after many generations of cell division, epithelial cells themselves became two to 10 times as stiff as younger cells.

They found this is due to the cells internal scaffolding of protein fibres - the cytoskeleton - becoming more dense.

Drugs being tested

The Clarkson team says there are already drugs available that inhibit the stiffening of the cytoskeleton - and perhaps slow the ageing process.

They are testing skin creams containing low doses of these compounds on mice.

First tests have shown rather promising results.

Professor Stuart Parker, of the Sheffield Institute for Studies on Ageing, told the BBC News website the findings were technical - and were carried out on cells in culture.

But he added: "The findings put another piece of knowledge into the jigsaw of our understanding of the cellular and molecular processes which may be associated with ageing."

Professor Parker said the best way to slow down the ageing of the skin was to minimise exposure to ultraviolet sunlight.

"The skin is an organ which is exposed to particular challenges from the environment over a lifetime," he said.

"Damage from ultra violet light is one of the main, if not the main factor contributing to skin ageing."





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SEE ALSO:
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21 Nov 04 |  Health


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