British and Portuguese researchers have discovered that vitamin C can be used to treat wounds and protect skin cells from DNA damage. Writing in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, the researchers evaluated the protective properties of this ascorbic acid in human skin cells to determine whether skin regeneration could be improved. The positive results could give the cosmetics industry a huge boost.
The researchers from the University of Leicester in the UK and the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology in Portugal said this latest study adds weight to previous work carried out by the Leicester researchers concerning vitamin C and its connection with skin repair.
The British researchers had found that DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) repair is unregulated in people who consume vitamin C supplements. By using various techniques in this study, including Affymetrix microarray (to assess gene expression) and single cell gel electrophoresis or Comet assay (to study DNA damage and repair), the researchers provide evidence supporting past discoveries.
'The exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation increases in summer, often resulting in a higher incidence of skin lesions,' explained Dr Tiago Duarte, formerly of the University of Leicester, and now at the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology.
'Ultraviolet radiation is also a genotoxic agent responsible for skin cancer, through the formation of free radicals and DNA damage. Our study analysed the effect of sustained exposure to a vitamin C derivative, ascorbic acid 2-phosphate (AA2P), in human dermal fibroblasts. We investigated which genes are activated by vitamin C in these cells, which are responsible for skin regeneration,' he added.
'The results demonstrated that vitamin C may improve wound healing by stimulating quiescent [i.e. inactive] fibroblasts to divide, and by promoting their migration into the wounded area. Vitamin C could also protect the skin by increasing the capacity of fibroblasts to repair potentially mutagenic DNA lesions.'
While it was discovered many years ago that vitamin C is the agent that prevents the nutritional disorder scurvy, its properties have been deliberated by researchers the world over for a long time.
Said Dr Marcus S. Cooke of the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester: 'The study indicates a mechanism by which vitamin C could contribute to the maintenance of a healthy skin by promoting wound healing and by protecting cellular DNA against damage caused by oxidation.'
He pointed out that the findings are of particular significance to the researchers' photobiology (the study of the interactions of light and living organisms) interests, 'and we will certainly be looking into this further'.
According to the team, the cosmetics industry would benefit from the results. It has been found that vitamin C has the capacity to counter the highly damaging compounds that affect the skin.
The results suggest that not only can vitamin C 'mop up' free radicals, but it can contribute to the removal of DNA damage by fighting and beating the cell's defences. The researchers speculate that the findings can also benefit ongoing research for the prevention and treatment of skin lesions and for the fight against cancer.
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