Nov. 29, 2007 -- Researchers say they've turned back the clock on aging skin -- in mice, at least -- and may be one step closer to unlocking the aging process.
"The implication is that the aging process is plastic and potentially amenable to intervention," Stanford University assistant professor of dermatology Howard Chang, MD, PhD, says in a news release.
But don't kiss your wrinkles good-bye just yet. The technique hasn't been tested in people and its long-term effects aren't known.
Here's how the experiment worked.
First, Chang's team did some genetic detective work. They analyzed human tissue samples, looking for signs of gene activity related to aging.
A protein called NF-kB was "strongly associated with aging," write the researchers. That protein appeared to control several age-related genes.
Then, Chang and colleagues turned their attention to elderly mice. For two weeks, the researchers slathered a chemical that blocks NF-kB activity in the mice's skin.
Those mice developed younger-looking skin that was about as thick as the skin of a newborn mouse.
"We found a pretty striking reversal to that of the young skin," says Chang.
He adds that "the findings suggest that aging is not just a result of wear and tear, but is also the consequence of a continually active genetic program that might be blocked for improving human health."
But the study was short, and it's not clear if blocking NF-kB is safe for mice, let alone people.
The findings will appear in the Dec. 15 edition of Genes & Development.