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Scientists prise open the secret to beautiful skin

By Katie Bird , 29-Jul-2008
Last updated on 30-Jul-2008 at 18:12 GMT

Mediterranean mussels and clams from the Black Sea may provide the latest regenerative skin care ingredient, according to scientists in Romania.

Wound healing properties

Lipids from Mytilus galloprovincialis L (Mediterranean mussel) and Rapana venosa (hard shell clam) were shown to have interesting burn healing properties by a team at the University of Constanza.

The extracts from the two organisms were compared against a commercially available ointment containing fish oil on induced skin burns in rats.

As the two extracts illustrate significant regenerative properties the team, led by Dr Diane Badiu from the University's biology and biochemistry department, suggest that they could be a useful ingredient in skin care formulations.

Badiu and the team purified an extract of Mytilus galloprovincialis and of Rapana venosa both harvested in the Baia Mamaia zone Park in the Romanian sector of the Black Sea.

The Physio-chemical characterisation of the two lipid extracts was analysed as was their healing effect on wounds.

The rats were randomly divided into five groups; group 1 consisted of rats with induced skin burns who received no treatment, group 2 was made up of rats with induced skin burns who received the mussel extract twice a day, group 3 received the clam extract, group 4 the two extracts in combination and finally group 5 which was treated with the commercially available burn ointment.

Healing properties of the extracts were given a score one, two or three, depending on the success of the skin regeneration.

A score of one denotes little epidermal and dermal regeneration, a thin granular layer and significant swelling. Two describes moderate epidermal and dermal regeneration, moderate swelling and the beginnings of new capillary growth. Three is the complete regeneration of the epidermis and dermis with low swelling and significant capillary regrowth.

Regeneration speeds up with the extracts

According to the researchers the rats treated with the mussel or clam extracts and the mixture of mussel and clam showed almost complete regeneration by day 12 with a score of three.

In contrast the untreated animals took up to 22 days to achieve a score of two and the skin did not always totally recover.

Although the mussel extract seemed to be slightly more efficient than the clam, combining the two did not appear to speed up recovery, according to the researchers.

It did, however, lead to a more complete regeneration.

As to the active compounds in the extracts, the researchers believe that the anti-inflammatory fatty acids present may play a role.

"We believe the omega-3 (EPA and DHA) and omega-6 (AA) essential fatty acids actively take part possibly via the reduction of the initial inflammatory phase and consequent facilitation of the subsequent wound healing steps through stimulation of dermal and epidermal regeneration, proliferation of fibroblasts and formation of new well structured capillary vessels," write the report's authors.

In addition, the researchers note that the mussel extract that performed slightly better than the clam has slightly higher levels of omega three and essential fatty acids.

The authors conclude that the extracts have 'an outstanding potential' to be used in ointments and skin care products.

Source: Physico-Chemical Characterisation of Lipids from Mytillus galloprovincialis (L.) and Rapana venosa and theirHealing Properties on Skin BurnsLipids, DOI 10.1007/s11745-008-3205-2Diana L Badu, Alina M Balu, Lucica Barbes, Rafael Luque, Roxana Nita, Marius Radu, Ecaterina Tanase, Natalia Rosoiu

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