It may be a long time before humans can extend their lifespans to hundreds of years, but the technology to make humans look sixty years younger than their actual age is right around the corner. A group of scientists at the University of Michigan have done an exhaustive study of what gives people the appearance of age — wrinkled, saggy, or broken skin — and figured out a quick fix that may keep skin looking taut and young even though the person inside it has grown very old. The key lies with collagen, a spongy layer of tissue beneath the skin that is gradually dissolved as people grow older.
Scientists say that aging bodies release an enzyme called collagenase that literally eats away at collagen, which in turn makes the skin weak and thin. It sags and becomes easier to bruise or tear. If collagenase could be removed from the body, or the collagen itself rejuvenated, people's skin would stay firm and healthy. There are several possible substances already available that could promote collagen regrowth (you can see one, Restylane, plumping up collagen in the image above).
According to Eurekalert:
The U-M researchers base their conclusions on past studies in which they have explored why certain anti-aging treatments are effective. A 2007 study looked at Restylane, marketed as a dermal filler, and found that injections of the product caused fibroblasts to stretch, promoting new collagen, and also limited the breakdown of collagen.
In another 2007 study, the U-M team tested lotions containing retinol, a form of Vitamin A found in many skin-care products, and found it significantly reduced wrinkles and skin roughness in elderly skin by promoting new collagen. Other U-M studies have shown why some laser treatments work and some less powerful ones do not. Carbon dioxide laser resurfacing is effective because it removes the aging dermis; in the three-week regrowth process, new, young collagen is produced.
Voorhees and his colleagues say they provide needed, independent research on the effectiveness of available and future treatments to counteract skin aging. They have no ties to the manufacturers of products they study.
It sounds like the early twenty-first century may be the first time in human history when you might have no idea how old the person is that you're talking to. With collagen replacement, you might think that you're dating a 25-year-old until she suddenly drops dead of old age.
Why Some Treatments Rescue Aging Skin [Eurekalert]