Rebekah Eliason for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Researchers from Newcastle University have discovered that an antioxidant called Tiron provides complete protection against certain types of sun damage and could ultimately be beneficial in keeping skin looking younger for longer.
In laboratory tests, the researchers compared protection by different antioxidants against sun damage from UVA radiation or free radical stress. Some of the antioxidants tested are commonly found in food or cosmetics. Although UVB radiation is responsible for causing sunburn, it is UVA radiation that penetrates at a deeper level and damages DNA by producing free radicals that tear down skin collagen, which is responsible for the skin’s elasticity.
The research team, funded by BBSRC and Unilever, discovered that the most effective antioxidants targeted one of the tiny organelles called mitochondria that are located inside of skin cells. For the study, they compared the antioxidants that specifically targeted mitochondria to non-specific antioxidants that target the whole cell. Resveratrol, found in red wine, and curcumin, found in curries, were some of the antioxidants studied that target the entire cell.
The team discovered that Tiron was the most effective mitochondrial-targeted antioxidant. It provided skin cells 100 percent protection against UVA sun damage as well as stress-induced damage from the release of damaging enzymes.
Mark Birch-Machin, Professor of Molecular Dermatology at Newcastle University said, “To discover that Tiron offers complete protection against UVA damage is exciting and promising, however, it is early days as Tiron is not a naturally occurring compound and has not yet been tested for toxicity in humans although there have been a few studies on rats.”
Dr Anne Oyewole, co-author of the study, said “This finding on Tiron provides us with a platform to study an antioxidant – preferably a naturally occurring compound with a similar structure which could then be safely added to food or cosmetics.”
As our skin is constantly exposed to sunlight, damaging ultraviolet radiation from the sun infiltrates skin cells and causes an increase of reactive oxygen free radicals that damage skin. If there are too many of the damaging particles, they can cause damage to the DNA inside of skin cells.
Over years of exposure, an accumulation of mutations increases aging and destroys the supportive structures of skin, such as collagen and elastin, which causes the formation of wrinkles. In recent studies, there have been suggestions that damage from the reactive oxygen species could also lead to increased development of skin cancers.
Adding antioxidants from substances such as green tea, red wine, turmeric and tomatoes, along with using certain cosmetic creams with antioxidant properties, can neutralize the damage done to our skin cells from free radicals. Potentially, they can slow down the rate of aging and reduce the rate of other skin lesions induced by the sun.
This study developed the first method that compares the potency of different antioxidants based on a skin cell system.
Scientists treated skins cells with a varying panel of antioxidants and then exposed them to a physiological dose of UVA radiation. This is the amount of radiation skin would be exposed to on a typical warm summer day. Using a polymerase chain reaction machine, DNA from the skin cells was copied and assessed to determine the amount of DNA damage.
Using this assessment method, Tiron, a chemically derived compound, was discovered to give 100 percent protection against damage to the mitochondrial DNA.
In comparison, resveratrol was shown to give 22 percent protection from UVA radiation and stress-induced damage. The commonly used laboratory-based antioxidant NAC gives twenty percent protection against oxidative stress and eight percent against UVA. Curcumin was discovered to only provide sixteen percent protection from oxidative stress and eight percent from UVA.
Tiron was able to provide 100 percent protection against UVA radiation as well as oxidative stress.
In future research, the team plans to increase their understanding of the mechanism of Tiron and develop a similar compound that will be tested for toxicity among humans. It is several years before the compound is projected to be ready for use as a supplement or skin product.
This study is published in The FASEB Journal.