Botox injections and dermal fillers to treat wrinkles could be a thing of the past, if a new natural treatment is proven to work.
Scientists believe healthy skin cells could one day be ‘banked’ and used later in life, when the effects of ageing have taken their toll.
Researchers tested the method on mice – delivered deep into their skin through jets of air, which smoothed out their wrinkles within three weeks.
It was also 30 per cent more effective than one of the most advanced anti-ageing methods which uses stem cells, according to the team at North Caroline State University.
The developers hope the technique will also works on humans, paving the way for a needle-free method to curing wrinkles.
The pioneering method works by harvesting skin cells and a molecule within them that can boost collagen production.
The end of wrinkles may be in sight as scientists at North Caroline State University find a new approach was successful on mice. Pictured, their method compared with a control
Wrinkles are caused by the skin becoming more elastic as you age because the cells lose their ability to multiple and produce collagen.
Collagen is a protein in the body that forms structures of the skin, hair and nails. It starts to decline at about age 25, accelerated by sun exposure and smoking.
There is no way to halt this, but scientists have endeavored to find ways of masking the creases – wrinkles – left behind.
Researchers turned their attention to exosomes, which are secreted by cells in the body as a way of communicating.
They can transfer information such as DNA, RNA or proteins between cells, which can affect the function of the recipient cell.
Professor Ke Cheng and colleagues wanted to see if a dose of exosomes from human skin cells could reduce wrinkles in mice.
Professor Cheng said: ‘Think of an exosome as an envelope with instructions inside – like one cell mailing a letter to another cell and telling it what to do.
‘In this case, the envelope contains microRNA, non-coding RNA that instructs the recipient cell to produce more collagen.’
The researchers exposed mice to ultraviolet B (UVB) light, which accelerates aging and causes wrinkles to form.
After eight weeks of UVB exposure, the researchers administered exosomes from human skin cells to some of the mice.
To avoid having to inject the exosomes with a needle, the team used a device that uses a jet of air to deliver medications deep into the skin.
Three weeks later, the treated mice showed significantly thinner wrinkles than the untreated mice due to the boost in collagen.
Skin from the mice treated with exosomes was around 20 per cent thicker than that of rodents which didn’t receive any treatment.
It was also five per cent thicker than the mice given MSC – an anti-wrinkle treatment using stem cells derived from bone marrow.
MSCs – mesenchymal stem cells – are a particular type of adult stem cell being investigated as an ‘ultimate’ anti-ageing therapy.
There was 30 per cent more collagen production in skin treated with the exosomes than MSC treated skin.
The exosomes also worked better than topical retinoic acid, a standard anti-aging cream, used on another group of mice.
Professor Cheng said there are two major benefits to exosome treatments over conventional treatments.
‘One, you can use donor skin cells from anyone to grow and harvest these exosomes – they aren’t cells, so you don’t run the risk of rejection.
‘And two, the treatment can be administered without needles – exosomes are small enough to be able to penetrate the skin via pressure, or jet injection methods.’
Botox temporarily reduces wrinkles by paralysing muscles in the face, which can cause a ‘frozen face’ look.
It also comes with risks, as do dermal fillers, if not done properly.
Professor Chen said: ‘Our hope is eventually people may be able to “bank” skin samples and come back to them, or use donor exosome treatments that they can administer themselves.
‘We believe that this work is an important step toward potentiating future human clinical trials in the prevention and treatment of cutaneous aging.’
The findings were published in the journal American Chemical Society Nano.
WHY DO WE GET WRINKLES?
Wrinkles are creases, folds, or ridges in the skin.
They normally appear as people get older, but they can also develop after spending a long time in water.
The first wrinkles to appear on a person’s face tend to occur as a result of facial expressions.
A tendency to laugh, frown or glare in a certain way can amplify creases in particular regions.
Laughter lines and crows feet tend to be formed from smiling and forehead furrows originate from frowning.
Sun damage, smoking, dehydration, some medications, and environmental and genetic factors also affect when and where people will develop wrinkles.
Most wrinkles tend to appear in the parts of the body which receive the most sun exposure, especially the face and neck, the back of the hands, and the arms.
The upper layer of skin has to renew regularly as it is made of dead cells.
As you get older, it takes longer for your epidermis to renew itself – and it shows more and more signs of your age.