A special type of subcutaneous cell that becomes fat tissue, a process that stops for years causing wrinkles, is a "secret" to keep skin young and protected.
"We have discovered why skin loses its ability to form fat for years," said Richard Gallo, head of the Dermatology Department at the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and senior research author.
The study, published in the scientific journal Immunity, found that several cells in the dermis known as fibroblasts have the ability to become adipose tissue stored under the skin and give a youthful appearance.
Similarly, fibroblasts produce peptides (unification of low amino acid numbers), "which play an important role in fighting infection," said a study by a team at UCSD.
"The loss of the ability of fibroblasts to become fat affects how the skin fights infection and can affect the way the skin looks during aging," explained the researcher.
Gallo pointed out that this process is unique and distinctive from certain types of fibroblasts and therefore gaining weight is not the solution to getting this fat tissue which makes the skin look fertile and helps fight infection.
Instead, he added, obesity "interferes with the ability to fight infection." The study details that TGF-Beta protein, which controls many cellular functions, is responsible for stopping "the conversion of several fibroblasts to fat and preventing the production of cathelicidin, an antimicrobial peptide that helps protect against bacterial infections."
"Babies have this type of fat under their skin which is inherently good for fighting certain types of infections," Gallo noted, noting that as we get older, fibroblasts lose their ability to get fat.
"The skin with the underlying fat layer looks much younger. Over the years, the appearance of this skin has a lot to do with the loss of subcutaneous fat," he said.
The research, carried out in laboratory mice, uses chemical inhibitors to inhibit the "aging" TGF-Beta action, with "wrinkled" skin regaining its fresh appearance.
The same results occur when the action of the TGF-Beta function is blocked through genetic techniques, which allows researchers to verify that this is a way to "stop skin aging".
The researchers stressed the importance of this research not only to restore youthful appearance, but to help fight skin infections that endanger the lives of elderly patients.