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Medicine Biotech Canada

Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene 175

BarbaraHudson sends this excerpt from The Province: While exploring the effects of the protein-degrading enzyme Granzyme B on blood vessels during heart attacks, professor David Granville and other researchers at the University of British Columbia couldn't help noticing that mice engineered to lack the enzyme had beautiful skin at the end of the experiment, while normal mice showed signs of age. The discovery pushed Granville's research in an unexpected new direction.

The researchers built a mechanized rodent tanning salon and exposed mice engineered to lack the enzyme and normal mice to UV light three times a week for 20 weeks, enough to cause redness, but not to burn. At the end of the experiment, the engineered mice still had smooth, unblemished skin, while the normal mice were deeply wrinkled.

Granzyme B breaks down proteins and interferes with the organization and the integrity of collagen, dismantling the scaffolding — or extra-cellular matrix — that cells bind to. This causes structural weakness, leading to wrinkles. Sunlight appears to increase levels of the enzyme and accelerate its damaging effects.
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Researchers Accidentally Discover How To Turn Off Skin Aging Gene

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  • Just skin? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Brad1138 ( 590148 ) <brad1138@yahoo.com> on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @03:15AM (#48615085)
    Or is the rest of the body "not aging "also?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @03:35AM (#48615135)

      Or is the rest of the body "not aging "also?

      Probably not, but skin is a LOT of the body. Hey at the least you could end up being a completely crippled , but awfully handsome , 90yo.

      • by dywolf ( 2673597 )

        its one of hte areas most prone to damage as you age. it gets thinner, its less able to repair itself, less able to protect the body internals, sun damage, skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer, etc.

        • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          A lot of that is directly coupled to the health of the rest of the body. Most old people eat like crap and just sit there. Look at highly active fit old people and you notice that they are not suffering the same effects. Old farmers that are well into their 80's that are still working their farm daily heal as fast as their 40 year old self.

          • My grandfather is one of those old farmers, and he definitely doesn't heal as quickly as he used to. In addition, his skin is getting very thin. This is very similar to every other old farmer I've ever met. So while yes, diet and exercise will likely influence the rate of aging, it is incorrect to assume that the effects are a result of poor diet and just sitting around.
            • by TWX ( 665546 )
              I've got a family member in a similar state, he worked until he was 70 years old in a labor job and retired only because it was mandated. He works on something physical almost every day even though he's in his late eighties. His skin while not as bad as some, still clearly has deteriorated with age.
      • Hey at the least you could end up being a completely crippled , but awfully handsome [...]

        Live fast, die old, leave a good-lookin' corpse.

      • by antdude ( 79039 )

        Or sexy. Eww!

    • Since the experimental design involved artificially aging [only] the skin by exposing the mice to tanning, they probably don't know yet.

  • by retroworks ( 652802 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @03:44AM (#48615173) Homepage Journal

    On the one hand, this could be huge. On the other hand, let's see the peer reviewed articles. Remember "resveratrol"? After seeing resveratrol covered by CBS 60 Minutes, etc, I bought some tablets, based on the similar mouse aging claims. Interesting history in Quackwatch.com describes how the mouse aging study led to $720M investment by GlaxoSmithKline. Once the money started rushing in, it went quacky...

    "In 2012, the University of Connecticut announced that it had concluded that Dipak K. Das, Ph.D., a professor in its Department of Surgery and director of the Cardiovascular Research Center, was guilty of 145 counts of fabrication and falsification of data and that the university had notified eleven journals about this problem [20]. In recent years, Das had gained attention for his reports on allegedly beneficial properties of resveratrol. As of March 2014, journals had retracted 20 of his papers, many of which were repeatedly cited by others [21]. Das died in 2013."

    Some interesting research is still going on, tangentially from the resveratrol research. But the way anti-aging anything gets marketed, suspicion always seems warranted.

    http://www.quackwatch.com/01Qu... [quackwatch.com]

    • by Chalnoth ( 1334923 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @04:30AM (#48615311)
      I'd also add that even if this research is valid, and even if stopping the action of this protein reduces skin aging in humans, there is a very good chance that the protein does other things that are quite important for health. It's conceivable, for instance, that you might have great skin, but a weakened immune system or have your digestion of certain important nutrients stunted. So even if there's no fraud, there's a lot of reason to remain skeptical.
    • My skin cream is not only anti-aging, but it can also be used to power my home cold fusion power generators!

      The next version will also be able to do teleportation via quantum entanglement.

      I challenge any Slashdotter to come up with a better product than that!

      • My mixture of natural herbs recommended by a Madagascan witch-shaman will not only reverse aging completely but it lets me use ad-hominem as a legitimate logical argument.

        Beat THAT.
    • by Buchenskjoll ( 762354 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @07:27AM (#48615725)

      Das died in 2013."

      So, the man who allegedly invented anti-aging has died? Talk about bad PR.

  • Does anyone know how to make an inhibitor for this Granzyme B enzyme?... Before pfizer patents it and charges $10.000 per drop?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Find out the gene, make a few interfering RNAs candidates, blast it into the skin cells (not as hard since its a surface tissue), choose the ones that did not knock down other similar proteins and BAM! you got it.

    • Does anyone know how to make an inhibitor for this Granzyme B enzyme?... Before pfizer patents it and charges $10.000 per drop?

      This is what they were experimenting with to see if they could protect large arteries from scarring. It's in TFA, which now appears to be slashdotted.

  • Researchers accidentally discover ... ... couldn't help noticing that mice had beautiful skin at the end of the experiment

    Who buys that? Did they really find something and hide the truth about how they did it, or are they just looking for some ways to get media attention?

  • Why is it there? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thePowersGang ( 1726438 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @04:04AM (#48615247)
    Interesting, but I can't help wonder if this enzyme exists for a reason. I presume these scientists are working hard to determine what evolutionary role it fills (before working on selling it as part of an anti-aging cream)
    • Re:Why is it there? (Score:4, Informative)

      by Skidborg ( 1585365 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @04:15AM (#48615275)
      It sounds like it's part of the system that removes damaged cells and toxic material after a sunburn. It causes some collateral damage, but it might be better than being poisoned.
    • Interesting, but I can't help wonder if this enzyme exists for a reason. I presume these scientists are working hard to determine what evolutionary role it fills (before working on selling it as part of an anti-aging cream)

      I hear this a lot... There seems to be a lot of misconception about evolution and the body. We gain and lose traits when they affect our ability to reproduce... and at no other time. So, at some time, this enzyme increased our ability to reproduce in some way. It did not need to increase our chances of survival because, evolution only cares about getting us to reproductive maturity. So, whatever reason that enzyme helped us in the past may be long gone and it's just a vestige of that time. It'll not be brea

      • not quite (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Chirs ( 87576 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @11:55AM (#48617341)

        We gain and lose traits when they affect our ability to reproduce... and at no other time.

        This isn't quite accurate. We can gain/lose traits randomly and if they don't impede our ability to reproduce they could get passed on. Also, some traits are genetically linked to more desirable traits, so they get dragged along by the other traits even if they're not necessarily desirable in and of themselves.

      • by Richy_T ( 111409 )

        Perhaps the advantage this enzyme gives is by wrinkly skin being an indicator of age. For women, it might signal that a woman is past her best breeding years and the male should invest his resources elsewhere (that would be more of a tribal advantage). And for men (though this is a stretch), it might indicate that the man has survived longer (having good genes) and maybe has more resources, meaning he can better support his offspring.

        Loads of flaws there, I'm sure :)

      • Evolution doesn't care if you get ugly, contract cancer and die in your 50s. If this thing doesn't make you less attractive or hurt your chances to make it into your teens and early 20s, evolution doesn't even notice it.

        Yes it does care, children need parents to raise and protect them. Furthermore, grandparents can help raise and protect their grandchildren. Both of these increase the odds that their offspring will reproduce.

      • It did not need to increase our chances of survival because, evolution only cares about getting us to reproductive maturity.

        Well yes, but humans have a long maturation period. Getting us to reproductive maturity necessitates keeping our parents alive as well, not just us. A human with at least one parent who survives 15 years after its birth has a decided evolutionary advantage over a human with no parent surviving a year after birth. A human with two present parents surviving at least 20 years after birth has an even bigger advantage. A human with two present parents surviving at least 20 years after birth plus at least one

  • I, for one (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    welcome our new handsome mice overlords

    • New?! They controlled us all the time. At least since our ancestors arrived at this planet.

      • New?! They controlled us all the time. At least since our ancestors arrived at this planet.

        And they have now tricked scientists into a discovery that will keep them youthful looking with incredible skin!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @04:06AM (#48615255)

    viDA Therapeutics, a company co-founded by Granville, is currently developing a Granzyme-B inhibitor based on technology licensed from UBC. The company plans to test a topically applied drug within two years on people with discoid lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune disease worsened by sunlight that can lead to disfiguring facial scarring. (The musician Seal has such a condition.)

    If the drug proves effective in preventing lupus-related skin lesions, there is potential for a cosmetic product to prevent the normal, gradual aging of the skin, which is mostly caused by sun exposure. But the drug might also be used for life-threatening conditions, such as aneurysms and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, caused by the breakdown of collagen and other proteins that provide structure to blood vessels and lung passages.

  • I have mod points, but when I read comments there are no drop down lists for me to comment.
    They only appear after I've commented, on that thread, at which point I'm no longer able to moderate that thread.
    Very annoying, any way to get the moderation options to always show up?
    • I have mod points, but when I read comments there are no drop down lists for me to comment. They only appear after I've commented, on that thread, at which point I'm no longer able to moderate that thread. Very annoying, any way to get the moderation options to always show up?

      Just go to another story and spend your mod points there.

  • our pale smoooooth skined mice overlord.

  • M. Gustave: [to Mme. Celine's corpse] "You're looking so well, darling, you really are... they've done a marvelous job. I don't know what sort of cream they've put on you down at the morgue, but... I want some. "
  • by kinko ( 82040 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @05:53AM (#48615499)

    given that tumour cells (for solid tumours) normally have defects in extra-cellular matrix related genes (eg genes in the collagen family are sometimes mutated in advanced gastric cancer) that help the tumour invade and spread through tissues, I wonder if using such a treatment increases the chances of either tumours forming, or tumours becoming higher grade/more serious more quickly...

    • Actually, it sounds like this enzyme increases the break-down of collagen, so decreasing it would tend to make it harder for cells to move around, but as others have said, would probably slow healing. Healing quickly would have been a big evolutionary advantage. Smooth skin in advanced age? Not so much.
  • Is effectively a syndrome. Cellular DNA has telomeres and with each division those telomeres shorten until the cell line finally undergoes apoptosis. But in cancer, a compound called telomerase shuts off the aging of the telomeres and allows cancers to grow uncontrollably.

    But this is interesting - so in essence if we can repair cell damage and suppress this factor then youth is maintainable for a period. Nice!
  • by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Wednesday December 17, 2014 @11:38AM (#48617209)
    ... getting burned and wrinkled . . .
  • I'm pretty sure I played a video game that started out just like this. Maybe they'll do Dobermans next. The fact that I live north of Seattle leads makes me a little unnerved about Vancouver as Raccoon City. On the bright side, who doesn't want the chance to waste some zombies?

  • The only "accidental" discovery in science is the discovery one could have stretched out over a great many more research grants if one had better anticipated the scientific windfall.

    Of course, we do tend to refer to the outcome of bad planning as "an accident" concerning our hominid prime directive, so perhaps there's no help for language after all.

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