It sounds like a Disney movie—Ursula squeezing a clam to give her lips that extra shine; “The Little Mermaid” in real life—but as unlikely as it sounds, scientists have discovered that sea urchins may unlock the key to healthier, younger skin.
The findings, published online in journals PLOS One and General and Comparative Endocrinology, came after researchers at the University of London investigated the genes of sea urchins and sea cucumbers, known in the scientific community as echinoderms. What they found was that these echinoderms had “messenger molecules” called peptides that are released by cells to direct other cells. Scientists observed the peptides in action as these “messenger molecules” caused rapid stiffening or softening of the collagen, cells which make up the body wall of the echinoderms.
In theory, the peptides could be harnessed to work in humans by providing the firmness and healthy shine of young skin for longer. But how can sea urchin genes work for us? After all, there are many other organisms biologically more similar to you than that spiky, purple ball that can be a serious pain in the foot.
At first glance, it would seem we have nothing in common with echinoderms, but despite the obvious differences in anatomy, we have more similarities than it appears.
“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,” said project leader Professor Maurice Elphick.
Current methods of skin rejuvenation involve dermal fillers, which moisturize and hydrate the collagen to add volume and shine to skin. Unfortunately, the moisture eventually dries up usually within one year, and more treatments must be done to keep the collagen looking young.
This new research, however, indicates that peptides could provide longer lasting skin enhancements by causing collagen to remain firm using hormones.
The researchers also found that sea urchins posses a peptide very similar to the human hormone calcitonin, which is responsible for regulating our bones and making sure they remain strong.
Although these findings are amusing and fascinating, and remind us of Disney classics, the importance of this research should not be overlooked. Further studies on echinoderms are now being done to see how they might better human life and health in the coming future.
To see how to get healthier, younger looking skin today, check out our easy, affordable, in-office skin treatment options.