During an extensive study of human skin cells, researchers found that the activity of a key enzyme declines with age.
As a result, they say, there is now a specific target for the development of tailor-made anti-aging treatments that “could counter this decline”.
Mark Birch-Machin, study leader and professor of molecular dermatology at Newcastle University, said the findings could potentially be applied to other parts of the body as well.
He said: “Our study shows, for the first time, that with age there is a specific decrease in the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of skin cells.
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“This enzyme is the hinge between the two important ways of producing energy in our cells and a decrease in its activity contributes to a decrease in bioenergy in aging skin.
Our study shows that with age, there is a specific decrease in the activity of a key metabolic enzyme found in the batteries of skin cells.
“Our research allows us today to have a specific biomarker, or a target, to develop and screen anti-aging treatments and cosmetic creams capable of countering this decline in bioenergy.
“It is now possible to find anti-aging treatments, with the added possibility of treating the aging process elsewhere in our body. ”
Twenty-seven donors, aged six to 72, provided samples from an area of skin protected from the sun to determine if there was a difference in activity with age.
It is now hoped that this breakthrough could also see the development of new drugs to fight skin cancer.
Anti-aging treatments are worth billions of pounds for the beauty industry
Newcastle University researchers hope the breakthrough may also herald new skin cancer treatments
In the UK, there are around 14,500 new cases of malignant melanoma (skin cancer) every year, 40 of which are diagnosed every day.
Malignant melanoma is now the fifth most common cancer in Britain, accounting for 4% of all new cases.
But in addition to possibly helping improve cancer drugs, the findings could also revolutionize the cosmetics industry, which in the UK employs one million people and is worth £ 17 billion.
The study was published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology.