Wrinkles, hair loss, gray hair, loss of muscle tone… We’ve been told that this is the inevitable order of things. But what if I told you scientists could turn off the gene mutation that causes aging, and you could retain your youthful looks forever?
What sounds like science fiction is effectively already true in 2018. Researchers at the University of Alabama have discovered a way to turn on and turn off the gene mutation that causes aging in mice. When they activated the mutation that causes mitochondrial function to decline, the mice lost hair, got gray hair, and developed wrinkles. They then turned the gene mutation off, and the mice became smooth and youthful again.
But first, what are mitochondria? These are cellular structures that metabolize energy from food into a form that can be used by cells. Although most of our DNA is packaged in chromosomes within the nucleus, mitochondria also have some of their own DNA. Over time, this mtDNA go through mutations, and because mitochondria only have limited repairing capabilities, the wrong code builds up–which causes anything from normal aging to cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Mitochondria have been the focus of research for anti-aging and skincare, and this U of Alabama study published in Cell Death & Disease proves that biotechnology is certainly up to the level of manipulating our health on a cellular level. Aside from inhibiting mitochondrial mutation, brands are working on manipulating the epigenome, which can be seen as the control panel for our genes. You have a certain set of genes at birth, but you’re not destined to a definite outcome: environmental factors like diet, stress, pollution, and more all play a role in triggering everything from diseases to aging. The new DNA skincare products promise to manipulate your epigenome to turn on genes that produce collagen, elastin, or other compounds.
In theory, a combination of these creams–and gene therapy–can keep you looking young forever. If you are interested in going that route, here is Augustus Bader Cream, developed by the eponymous biomedical scientist in Leipzig, Germany: it contains proprietary Trigger Factor Complex to stimulate your own stem cells for regeneration, a patented technology that came from Dr. Bader’s research into burn wounds. It’s so effective that when Diane Kruger discovered it through a friend, she became a partner in the venture. The price is a hefty $265 (10% of the profits go to supporting clinics and doctors in underserved communities around the world).
Think that’s expensive? It’s nothing compared to La Prairie’s Platinum Rare Cellular Night Elixir, which clocks in at $1,200 and promises “one drop at night, newborn skin by morning.” It uses platinum and a proprietary cellular complex, and is surprisingly cruelty-free (although the brand is *not* vegan, and many products contain ingredients like caviar).
This all brings home the slightly sinister aspects of these DNA skincare products. One, many if not most of them are based on animal research and testing. In the course of my life, I am sure I’ve been a beneficiary of medical research on animals through vaccines, procedures, and medicines I’ve used to shake off diseases–but when it comes to something as extra as skincare, I don’t want to be a willing participant. Two, as the price tags on these products show, DNA skincare is poised to be yet another frontier in which our gross social inequality plays out. On one end, we have extreme wealth and privilege, so much so that mortality itself becomes optional; on the other hand, most of the world suffers from hunger, lack of clean water and hygiene, the worst effects of climate change, the worst effects of pollution, and lack of sustainable opportunities. It’s a fine line balancing self-care and preservation with empathy and humility, but it’s definitely crossed when a cream costs more than a $1,000.
Finally, is it really desirable to stop time, even if you could? One can’t shake off the feeling that there is something emotionally disturbing about manipulating your genes to look young forever, in the mould of Snow White’s evil stepmother. The desire to look young is clearly primal and descends from time immemorial; but the desire to look young *forever* is frightening, akin to the desire to stay alive forever (are you a vampire???).
If I can look five to ten years minus my actual age, I’d consider that a triumph–but always look 25? That would seriously mess with my mind and my soul. DNA manipulation is kind of a no-go for me, but there *are* more subtle, vegan, and cruelty-free skincare products that prompt cellular regeneration. We suggest you try these instead.
Juice Beauty, Signal Peptides Firming Serum, $110. This says it’s “inspired by epigenetics” but as far as I can tell, it’s just got a good mix of organic plant ingredients such as aloe, squalene, olive oil (omega 6–will keep your sebum levels controlled and flowing, not clogged), and vitamin E. Note for sensitive and blemish-prone types: this has coconut alkanes.
Bella Aura Nightly Cellular Renewal, $110. I’ve used this and *loved* it, especially in conjunction with Bella Aura Antioxidant Booster. The night cream promises to instigate cellular renewal–among other things, it activates LXR (liver x receptor) in keratinocytes, which is a gene regulator in skin development. Translation: you get firmer, more elastic, smooth, and wrinkle-free skin.
What are your thoughts on the anti-aging industry?
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Photo: Pexels, respective brands