Scientists Have Found A ‘Youth Gene’
The Debrief: WE'RE ALL GOING TO BE IMMORTAL. OK, not quite.
There are things that affect the rate at which our skin ages: our habits, skin type, sleep patterns and skincare regimes, to name a few. But for the first time ever scientists have identified another possible reason why people may age quicker than others: the presence (or absence) of a ‘youth gene’.
This study into ‘perceived age’ was conducted by the Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and Unilever. As part of the study, the ‘naked’ faces of 2,693 people were assessed and their perceived age (the age the observer estimated them to be) was compared to their actual age. Using these results, they looked more closely at the people who were perceived to be younger than they were to see if there were any DNA differences.
And they found something: some variants of the MC1R gene which is responsible for making melanin (this determins skin, hair and eye colour) left people looking on average two years younger than people with other versions of the gene. It's unclear why this is despite despite looking into the idea that variants of the gene could alter skin damage from the sun. Interestingly, the BBC report, the gene comes in different forms, many of which cause red hair.
They interviewed Professor Ian Jackson, from the UK Medical Research Council's Human Genetics Unit, and he was dubious that these findings weren't related to the idea that paler skin could make a person look younger. ‘MC1R is the major gene involved in red hair and pale skin, and what they're trying to say is it's got an impact on making you look slightly younger that isn't to do with paler skin, but I'm not so sure.’
The researchers claim they adjusted the data to account for different skintontes but Professor Jackson questioned how well they adjusted for it. ‘I would suspect people who have paler pigmentation would look younger and that might be paler skin or bluer eyes or blonde or red hair.’
This study is the first of it’s kind and whilst it’s early days, it could lead to major developments in products able to make people look younger – if they so wish, of course.
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