Scientists at the University of Texas have uncovered what may be the next treatment to slow and reverse the signs of aging skin.
Microneedle patches pressed into the skin for 15 minutes have been used to deliver messenger RNA strands via extracellular vesicles into skin cells, stimulating the cells to produce more collagen naturally, they report in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nature Biomedical Engineering. And that has led to skin that has fewer lines and wrinkles along with “higher elasticity and firmness,” according to the study.
“It allows these cells to regenerate, or produce more collagen,” University of Texas neurosurgery professor Betty Kim, one of the authors of the study, tells MarketWatch.
As the popular science website StudyFinds.org points out, the treatment could, in theory, replace Botox, which for 30 years has been the go-to treatment for those trying to fight lines, wrinkles and the signs of aging.
Botox has been popularized in the past by celebrities like Pop Idol/American Idol magnate Simon Cowell.
Unlike Botox, the new treatment does not involve injecting your skin with toxins, let alone toxins produced by the bacteria responsible for botulism.
Researchers applied the treatment to laboratory mice, whose skins were first artificially aged using ultraviolet irradiation over 8 weeks resulting in wrinkles and collagen depletion. Those then treated with messenger RNA via microneedle patches showed a substantial reduction in wrinkles and improvement in skin condition, although this only lasted 70 days.
Any treatment for human beings would years away, Kim says. Human trials will not take place for “a couple of years,” she said.
The research was conducted to demonstrate the effectiveness of delivering messenger RNA through the skin via extracellular vesicles and microneedles, a technology that could potentially be used for a wide variety of therapies far beyond collagen production. “You can do it for cancer therapy,” Kim says.
The research was conducted at UT’s MD Anderson Cancer Center.
But it is the potential to challenge Botox—and other skin treatments such as lasers — which may get the initial attention.
“I think the main thing is that Botox is not ‘natural,’” Kim says. “It’s a toxin. We’re using the cells’ natural machinery.”