Scientists at the University of B.C. searching for ways to slow the deterioration of blood vessels may have stumbled on to the key to youthful skin.
While exploring the effects of the protein-degrading enzyme Granzyme B on blood vessels during heart attacks, professor David Granville 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.
“This is one of those moments that we live for in science,” said Granville, a researcher for Providence Health Care.
“We were interested in the effects of aging on blood vessels; we had no idea (the absence of this enzyme) would have any effect on their skin.”
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.
“About 80 to 90 per cent of visible skin aging is caused by sunlight,” said Granville. “We found that by knocking out this gene we could markedly protect against the loss of collagen and it prevented wrinkling in these mice.”