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Longevity Briefs: Can A 150 Year-Old Dye Slow Skin Ageing?

Posted on 28 January 2021

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Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Oxidative stress is a damaging process caused by the accumulation of harmful metabolic by-products called reactive oxygen species (ROS). Oxidative stress is thought to be a major driver of skin ageing and of ageing in general. Antioxidants are compounds that can reduce oxidative stress, and may be effective at slowing some aspects of skin ageing. Methylene blue, a 150 year-old drug and dye used in labs the world over, is one such antioxidant.

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What did the researchers do: In this study, researchers compared the antioxidant capability of methylene blue to that of other widely used antioxidants. They tested methylene blue’s ability to neutralise reactive oxygen species in human skin cells taken from both healthy individuals and from individuals with progeria, a genetic disease of premature ageing. They also studied its effects on cultured 3D reconstructions of human skin.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Methylene blue was more effective at neutralising ROS than widely used antioxidants (N-Acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC), MitoQ, and MitoTEMPO (mTEM). In 3D models of human skin, methylene blue promoted wound healing and increased skin hydration and thickness, and didn’t cause signs of irritation even at high concentrations. Treated skin cells also upregulated genes for elastin and collagen, two essential skin components the decline of which is largely responsible for wrinkling and skin fragility. Methylene blue may therefore be effective in slowing skin ageing and warrants further investigation.

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