Scientists woke up collagen-related gene in 80 years old

Skin cells began reconnecting to the extracellular matrix, additional blood vessels appeared

Collagen-related genes

Collagen-related genes

The skin tells our aging story and how we are weathering life. But if you think aging has to do with skin cells, think again. Your skin cells get lonely for a little more of the comforting blanket called extracellular matrix or ECM, the gel outside that gives shape; as ECM depletes, the skin cells get maltreated, tired, cold.

University of Michigan Medical School skin scientists have succeeded in making the skin cells of senior citizens act like younger cells again simply by adding more filler to the fiber-filled area around the cells.

This extracellular matrix, or ECM, is made up of collagen and is a lattice or scaffold to which skin cells roost. Fibroblasts produce collagen. With age and environmental stress the ECM fragments; skin cells lose connections and ECM begins to decline.

The doctors injected the skin of 21 volunteers in their eighties with a filler often used cosmetically to reduce facial wrinkles. The filler bolsters the ECM, filling in the spaces left by aging.

Once the ECM was restored, the fibroblasts in the hands woke up. The collagen-related genes became productive, more collagen was produced and the skin cells began reconnecting to the ECM. Skin gained thick new look, additional blood vessels, which nourished the cells, were seen.

“Fragmentation of the extracellular matrix plays an important role in skin aging, but by altering the matrix using an external filler and increasing the internal pressure, we’ve shown that we can essentially trigger a signal for cells to wake up,” says Gary Fisher, PhD, Harry Helfman Professor of Molecular Dermatology and senior author. “This shows that skin cells in elderly people have the capacity to respond robustly in a very positive way to alterations in the mechanical property of their environment.”

Reference Taihao Quan, Frank Wang, Yuan Shao, Laure Rittié, Wei Xia, Jeffrey S Orringer, John J Voorhees, Gary J Fisher. Enhancing Structural Support of the Dermal Microenvironment Activates Fibroblasts, Endothelial Cells, and Keratinocytes in Aged Human Skin In Vivo. Journal of Investigative Dermatology, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/jid.2012.364
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