Saturday, 26 May 2012

Genetic Anti-Wrinkle Pill Discovery

For those in the aging female population who are concerned about their appearance, John Casey and his team working for Unilever in the UK have made a discovery: a pill made up of natural food extracts that is believed to reduce the appearance of wrinkles from the genetic level.

Signs of aging such as facial wrinkles are caused by the decrease in oestrogen production as women enter menopause. Combined with the increase in the proteases enzyme activity, this reduces skin elasticity because the production of collagen is reduced. (Walsh 2012) Various Botox and collagen fillers treatments are available currently; however there may be unknown side effects. The discovery of this pill leads to a possible alternative for people looking for cosmetic treatment.

This particular study conducted double-blind trials on 480 women in four separate research groups to test the effect of the capsules, focussing on the wrinkles at the corner of the eye.  After consuming the capsule three times a day for 14 weeks, wrinkles became 10% shallower on average and up to 30% shallower in the subjects who received the capsule. (Coghlan, 2011) The depth of wrinkles remain unchanged in those who received the placebo.  The pill contains vitamins C and E, and food extracts such as isoflavones from soya and omega-3 from fish oil and they believe these to be the combination that can activate genes associated with collagen synthesis. (Coghlan, 2011)

The principle behind how this pill works goes back to the basics of producing proteins from the translation and transcription of DNA. The DNA in cells encodes genetic information that controls the growth and development of an organism. (Lerner 2008) Gene regulation allows organisms to respond to stimuli and changes in the environment by turning genes “on” and “off”. (Reece et al. 2009) A gene that is “on”, or an active gene, is one that is being transcribed into RNA and then translated into proteins. This means that different genes are expressed when specific proteins are needed.

There are approximately 34 genes associated with collagen formation, each coding for a specific mRNA sequence. The beginning of collagen synthesis begins with turning on genes which are associated with the formation of a particular alpha peptide (typically alpha 1, 2 or 3). The pill works by stimulating genes associated with producing collagen to be expressed, with the help of natural food extracts. 

DNA directs the manufacture of proteins, and it occurs in two main steps. First, information is transferred from DNA to messenger RNA (mRNA) in a process called transcription. The mRNA leaves the nucleus and carries its information to the ribosomes. The message in the RNA sequence of nucleotides is then translated into a sequence of amino acids, which link to form a polypeptide.

Collagen is then formed through a series modification steps on its precursor molecule, procollagen. Since vitamin C has an important role in its synthesis, a recent study has shown that prolonged exposure of cultures of human connective-tissue cells to ascorbate increases the synthesis of collagen by eight-fold.

These capsules are a less invasive alternative to reducing wrinkles compared to currently popular facial surgery procedures.  


Lerner, K.L. and Lerner B.W. 2008, The Gale Encyclopedia of Science. 4th edition. Vol , Thomson Gale.
Reece, J, Taylor, M, Simon, E & Dickey, J 2009, Biology Concepts & Connections, Pearson Benjamin Cummings, San Francisco.

Russel, J, Wolfe, S, Hetz, P, Starr, C & McMillan, B 2008, Biology – The Dynamic Science, Yolana Cossio, Canada.

Walsh J, McNamara M. Chapter e6. Women's Health Issues. In: McPhee SJ, Papadakis MA, Rabow MW, eds. CURRENT Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2012. New York: McGraw-Hill; 2012. Accessed 15 March, 2012.

Coghlan, A, 2011, ‘New Scientist’, First Anti-wrinkle Pill shows signs of success, Issue 2831. Accessed 11 March 2012. 

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