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Peptides in Sea Cucumbers May be Key to Get Glowing Skin

Oct 02, 2012 08:01 AM EDT
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Marine mammals can help in learning new ways to make skin young and healthy, suggests a new study.

Creatures like sea cucumbers and sea urchins can change the flexibility of a fibrous protein called collagen in their bodies that could help them to maintain a young and healthy look. Collagen is a protein that occurs naturally in mammals, including humans. They are found in connective tissues and strengthen the bones and teeth.

It helps in getting smooth skin and a youthful appearance. Collagen is used for medicinal purpose for treating people requiring a plastic surgery to enhance the facial features like cheeks and to get a youthful look. They are also used to treat wounds and scars.

For their study, a team of researchers led by researcher Maurice Elphick, from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences, London, looked at genes in purple sea urchin, scientifically known as strongylocentrotus purpuratus, and the edible sea cucumber (apostichopus japonicas) that have the  messenger molecules known as peptides.

Peptides cause rapid stiffening or softening of collagen in the body wall of sea cucumbers.  Understanding how peptides work in sea cucumbers will help in finding ways to get a wrinkle -free youthful skin, said Elphick.

"Although sea urchins and sea cucumbers may not look much like us, we are actually quite closely related to them. As we get older, changes in collagen cause wrinkling of our skin, so if we can find out how peptides cause the body wall of a sea cucumber to quickly become stiff or soft then our research might lead to new ways to keeping skin looking young and healthy," he said.

Experts also noticed that peptides in sea urchins are similar to calcitonin present in humans. It is a type of hormone produced in humans that helps to regulate calcium levels in the body and also helps in the process of bone building.

"So it will be fascinating to find out if calcitonin-type peptides have a similar sort of role in spiny-skinned creatures like sea urchins," Elphick noted.

The findings of the study are published online in the journals PLOS ONE and General and Comparative Endocrinology.

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