Research in Newcastle has determined that activity of one particular mitochondrial enzyme declines noticeably with age, providing a potential new therapeutic target
The latest study from Newcastle University reveals that activity of the enzyme mitochondrial complex II diminishes as the years go on. We’ve known for a while that older skin and many older cells in general lose energy producing efficiency with time – creating a gradual decline in energy as we age. As an important player in the electron transport chain, mitochondrial complex II, also known as succinate dehydrogenase, the finding highlights a measurable feature in aging skin that could perhaps contribute to processes like the loss of elasticity.
“As our bodies age we see that the batteries in our cells run down, known as decreased bio-energy, and harmful free radicals increase. This process is easily seen in our skin as increased fine lines, wrinkles and sagging appears. This enzyme is the hinge between the two important ways of making energy in our cells and a decrease in its activity contributes to decreased bio-energy in ageing skin”
How did they find this out?
Activity of the enzyme was measured in 27 people, ranging from 6 to 72 years old. Skin samples were taken from sun-protected skin, to reduce the influence of sun exposure on results, and mitochondria from cells within the epidermis and dermis were analysed.
Unexpectedly, the researchers found levels of mitochondrial complex II activity declined in the lower dermis with age, but not the epidermis; a feature which had never been recorded before. This decline was linked to a loss of the actual enzyme protein itself, and interesting only in cells that had ceased dividing.
While the loss leads to a marked decline in cellular energy, whether the decline is a symptom of other age-related changes or a cause in itself remains to be seen. It does however open up a new potential avenue of treatment that could perk up and improve skin function in the elderly.
“Our research means that we now have a specific biomarker, or a target, for developing and screening anti-ageing treatments and cosmetic creams that may counter this decline in bio-energy. There is now a possibility of finding anti-ageing treatments which can be tailored to differently aged and differently pigmented skin, and with the additional possibility to address the ageing process elsewhere in our bodies”
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