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Slowing Down the Ageing Process

The appearance of our skin is a primary indicator of our age and, during the last decade, substantial progress has been made towards understanding the underlying mechanisms of ageing in human skin. By recognising the process of skin ageing – how it happens and why – researchers can create a stronger foundation for current and future developments in anti-ageing treatments (and perhaps even slow down ageing).

A study coordinated by researchers from the University of Michigan sought to understand the mechanisms involved in skin ageing, with a specific focus on the dermal collagen matrix. It found that the fragmentation of collagen in the skin is responsible for the skin’s gradual loss of structural integrity, and that, ultimately, anti-ageing treatments which stimulate production of new non-fragmented collagen should provide substantial improvement to the appearance and health of aged skin.

The study found that fragmentation of the dermal collagen matrix occurs from the actions of specific enzymes which break down the dermis. The fibroblasts that produce and organise the collagen matrix cannot attach to fragmented collagen, and this loss of attachment prevents fibroblasts from receiving mechanical information from their support. As a result, they collapse.

Further, stretch is critical for normal balanced production of collagen and collagen-degrading enzymes. In aged skin, collapsed fibroblasts produce low levels of collagen and high levels of collagen–degrading enzymes. This imbalance advances the ageing process, in a self-perpetuating, never-ending deleterious cycle.

The study concluded that clinically-proven anti-ageing treatments such as topical retinoic acid, CO2 laser resurfacing, and intradermal injection of cross-linked hyaluronic acid stimulate production of new, undamaged collagen. Attachment of fibroblasts to this new collagen allows stretch, which in turn balances collagen production and degradation, thereby slowing the ageing process.


Source: Archives of Dermatology
Fisher, G. J., Varani. J. & Voorhees, J. J. (2008) Looking older: Fibroblast Collapse and Therapeutic Implications. Archives of Dermatology. Vol. 144, Issue 5. P 666-672.

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