Scientists identify new factor in skin ageing

The new discovery that a metabolic enzyme in the skin known as mitochondrial Complex II decreases with age could create new possibilities for products to tackle skin ageing.

Although scientists have long argued that mitochondria play an important role in the ageing process, their exact role has remained unclear.

The new study, by scientists at Newcastle University, tested human skin aged from six to 72 years and found that the rate of Complex II significantly decreased with age in fibroblasts found in the dermis but not in keratinocytes, from the epidermis.

“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,” said Professor Mark Birch-Machin, who led the study. “Our study shows for the first time in human skin that with increasing age there is a specific decrease in the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of the skin cells.”

Complex II works in the skin to link the two essential energy-producing processes of its cells, meaning that a decrease in the enzyme leads to decreased bio-energy. “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,” said Birch-Machin.