Rhamnose-the new cat’s pyjamas of anti-ageing???

Youth lies in the dermis-this, we know. Firm, smooth bright skin owes much to the hardworking cells called fibroblasts which produce those all-important molecules collagen (of which there are no less than 18 types), elastin and hyaluronic acid. Fascinating research done by those clever people at Loreal has shed even more light on what we already know. They have demonstrated through laboratory studies on reconstructed skin that there is a specific type of fibroblast that lies in the upper part of the dermis (know as the papillary dermis) which is critical, both in terms of keeping the dermis perky and stimulated but also the epidermis, the skin’s outer layer. These cells appear particularly sensitive to UVA, the more deeply penetrating rays of the sun and their numbers decline as we get older. Those that remain also have to work harder to get the same information out to other cells in the tissue, which means that the epidermis doesn’t have the same drive to regenerate and repair. So the key message from this work was to find a way to keep these cells ‘on’ and functioning like young healthy fibroblasts.

This led to a search for a new ‘key” anti-ageing molecule which would ‘unlock’ the papillary fibroblasts’ potential…and the exciting finding was the  discovery of a plant sugar called rhamnose, which is found in the Brazilian (I know…..all good things of late are Latin-American in origin!) plant called Cat’s Claw. This plant has long been know for its medicinal properties and was recently  shown to be helpful in  combatting dengue fever.

Rhamnose  was found to improve both epidermis thickness and production of the most important dermal collagen precursor (procollagen 1) in vivo ie in real-life ageing humans in a placebo-controlled double blind study. This means 2 things 1) the preparation is able to penetrate the outer layer of the skin to get to the important bit underneath and 2) it seems to actually stimulate fibroblast cells to function more effectively. Both the laboratory findings and the clinical studies will be presented in Seoul this year at the World Congress of Dermatology in May 2011-all very promising.

So finally…..the cosmetic industry is paying attention to the demands of consumers by backing up claims with hard science. Miaow to that, I say.

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