Sunburn is a leading cause of premature skin aging and a bigger risk for skin cancer and other age-related skin issues.
For the first time, a multinational research team has made progress towards being able to reverse or delay this damage. Professor Matt Whiteman of the University of Exeter Medical School and Professor Uraiwan Panich of Mahidol University’s Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital led the study.
The researchers subjected adult human skin cells and mouse skin to ultraviolet light in their study, which was published in Antioxidant and Redox Signaling (UVA). UVA is a component of natural sunlight that causes damage to unprotected skin and can pass through windows and even some clothing.
By activating skin-digesting enzymes known as collagenases, it causes the skin to age prematurely. These enzymes eat away at the natural collagen in the skin, causing it to lose suppleness and sag, generating wrinkles. UVA also penetrates deeper into the skin than the UV radiation that causes sunburns (UVB)-, and it damages cellular DNA, leading to mutations that can contribute to some skin cancers.
Classic sun creams people use on holiday sit on top of the skin and absorb UV radiation, but they do not penetrate the skin where the long-lasting damage occurs.
The team’s discovery, on the other hand, sets the door for a new technique to protect the deeper layers of skin utilizing two chemicals developed at the University of Exeter: AP39 and AP123.
The compounds did not protect the skin in the same manner that standard sun lotions do but instead penetrated the epidermis to fix how UVA radiation as it turned off the energy production and utilization of skin cells. This then prevented the activation of skin-degrading collagenase enzymes and subsequent skin damage.
Professor Matt Whiteman, of the University of Exeter Medical School, a co-senior author on the paper declared that “Some skin sun creams and cosmetics contain ingredients thought to protect mitochondria from UV radiation. However, it isn’t clear that these cosmetic skin-applied substances get inside skin cells at all, whereas we found that our molecules penetrate cells and specifically target mitochondria where they are needed.”
The significant finding noted was the chemicals exclusively controlled energy production, PGC-1, and Nrf2 in UVA-exposed skin, This indicates a novel method to treating UV-damaged skin that could potentially reverse as well as reduce the harm.