A type of special subcutaneous cells that become fat tissue, a process that stops over the years causing wrinkles, is the "secret" to keeping the skin young and protected, according to a study published today.
"We discovered why the skin is losing the ability to form fat over the years," says Richard Gallo, head of the Department of Dermatology at the University of California in San Diego (UCSD) and senior research author.
The research, published today in the scientific journal Immunity, revealed that some of the dermis cells known as fibroblasts have the ability to become fatty tissue that is deposited under the skin and gives it a youthful appearance.
Similarly, fibroblasts produce a peptide (a compound of a small number of amino acids), which "plays a key role in the fight against infections," according to a study by the UCSD team.
"The loss of the ability of fibroblasts to become fat affects how the skin is fighting infections and can affect the way the skin looks during aging," explains the researcher.
Gallo suggests that this process is unique and typical for a particular type of fibroblasts and therefore gaining weight is not the solution to getting this fatty tissue that gives the skin a stormy look and helps fight infection.
On the contrary, he adds, obesity "interferes with the ability to fight infections".
The study reveals that the TGF-Beta protein, which controls many cellular functions, is responsible for stopping "converting some fibroblasts into fat and preventing the production of catelecillin, an antimicrobial peptide that helps protect against bacterial infections."
"Babies have a quantity of this type of fat under the skin, which makes it natural to fight well against some types of infections," notes Gallo, noting that as the fibroblasts lose their ability to become fat.
"The skin with a layer of ointment under looks looks much younger, and over the years, the appearance of this skin has much to do with the loss of subcutaneous fat tissue," he says.
Research done in laboratory mice used chemical blockers to prevent the TGF-Beta's aging effect, so that "wrinkled" skin regained its new look.
The same result occurred when the function of this TGF-Beta function was blocked through genetic techniques, which enabled researchers to confirm that this was a "way to prevent skin aging."
The researchers stressed the importance of the study not only to restore youthful appearance, but also to help fight skin infections that endanger the lives of older patients.