Metabolic changes associated with aging skin: genomics reveals anti-aging targets

The biological effects of aging are challenges which we all have to face. For many of us, a great aesthetic concern is the impact of aging on the skin. These effects are a result of our hormonal changes, combined with external factors such as smoking habits and UV exposure. An article recently published in BMC Genomics provides new insight into metabolic adaptations and transcriptional regulation during aging of human skin


As we age, our cells reduce their ability to regenerate as effectively, pigmentation increases, and wrinkles emerge. All of us experience some form of detriment to the skin, which cosmetic companies seek to re-mediate. For less of us, aging on the skin poses more serious issues such as cancer.

Our metabolism is key to supporting the function of the skin, such as the regulation of collagen and water. However, very little is currently known about metabolic alterations in aged skin.

Assessing metabolic changes at the genomic level can lead to new solutions to prevent age induced skin disorders. In the scientific community, it is well established that gene expression adaptions and metabolic changes accompany skin degradation. It has been observed that DNA repair capacities reduce, and methylation changes lead to decreased cellular plasticity.

Recently published research from ETH Zurich provides valuable information on the metabolic adaptions of aging skin, and may benefit cosmetic companies to devise new solutions for age induced skin deterioration. These adaptions were observed in young (20-25 year old) and old (55-66 years old) human females by analyzing the RNA and metabolites of their skin’s epidermis.

A key discovery in the aged skin was the reduction of Q10; a coenzyme present within most animals. Often found within eukaryotic cells, Q10 is protein soluble, and can be seen in the market place as a health supplement for regulating energy in the body. Observed alterations to the processing of glucose (glycolysis), the reduced biosynthesis of protein and the organic compound polyamine are also discussed.

While Q10 decreased, there was a rise in the levels of taurine, the bio-marker cresol, and α-CEHC – the vitamin E metabolite. Metabolites for Vitamin E play an important role by providing anti-oxidative functions and preventing oxidative damage induced by UV energy. Most amino acid metabolites accumulated with age, helping to counteract dry skin by promoting moisturization of the epidermis, as the authors discuss.

Applying metabolome and transcriptome analyses to human epidermal samples has provided insight into the metabolic adaptions associated with skin aging. Various metabolites are observed to have remedial effects on aging skin, which may help improve anti-aging skin products in the future.

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Adam Richard

In February of 2016 a breakthrough discovery involving aging skin was announced called “Mitochondrial Complex II”. A breakthrough in understanding human skin cells offers a pathway for new anti-ageing treatments. Is this not of high relevance to this issue, and worth mention? This from the article in Science Daily:
“For the first time, scientists at Newcastle University, UK, have identified that the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of human skin cells declines with age.
A study, published online in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, has found that the activity of mitochondrial complex II significantly decreases in older skin.”


Interesting information given about the metabolic changes, and how it affects the skin genomics. And why it is necessary to reveal anti aging targets.

Cris Beetham

Thanks for the article, so many great anti-ageing ingredients available now with proper scientific studies to back them up. We need more of this evidence based research in the skincare industry.

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