A group of scientists working for cosmetic giant Proctor and Gamble say they have identified the key genes involved in ageing skin.
Using data generated by the human genome project - the ambitious international effort to decode human DNA - researchers have found 1,500 separate genes that govern how long people stay free from wrinkles.
Advertisement'The human genome project has made it possible for us to analyse ageing right down to the hundreds of genetic changes that happen in our skin as we get older,' Dr.Jay Tiesman, Principal Scientist in the Global Biotechnology Division of The Procter & Gamble Company in Cincinnati, Ohio, told the Sunday Telegraph.
Dr Tiesman says skin ages in eight separate ways - each one controlled by its own group of genes.
The team believe one of the most important is hydration - the way that skin collects and retains its moisture, using molecules that bind water into skin.
As skin gets older, the genes that control this process become less active and skin can retain less moisture, leading to wrinkles. As many as 700 genes could be involved in this process.
Another 'ageing pathway' involves collagen - the protein that gives skin is underlying structure.
As people age, the genes that degrade collagen can become overactive - leading to more wrinkles.
The team has found 40 genes involved in the collapse of collagen.
Inflammation was found to involve about 400 genes, while another group of genes influence how the skin reacts to sunlight.
The skin's response to 'free radicals' - the molecules that can damage a cell's damage - is also crucial to how it ages.
By narrowing down the DNA involved with skin ageing, researchers hope to create drugs and creams which can stimulate some genes, and suppress others to restore youthful looks.
Thus far it has been some quest for a Holy Grail, remaining elusive despite decades of research and billions of pounds of funding.
Most anti ageing creams don't stand up to scientific scrutiny.
However, a reliable clinical trial published earlier this year showed that Boots No7 Protect and Perfect range actually worked.
In a controlled trial, Manchester University scientists found that a fifth of people who used the cream for six months saw improvement in their skin.
The cream appeared to trigger the production of a protein called fibrillin-1 which makes skin more elastic.
The main preventable causes of skin ageing are exposure to sun and smoking, David Derbyshire reported for Daily Mail.
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