Tobacco plant could provide anti-wrinkle solutions

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Amino acid

A sugar-peptide mix from wild tobacco plants could be an effective anti-aging ingredient for cosmetics, according to scientists in Italy.

The mix of short peptides, amino acids and sugars has antioxidant properties as well as promoting collagen synthesis and stability, and upregulating the expression of a number of genes, the study claims.

“Its role in protecting skin cells from premature damage caused by free radicals, as well as its capacity to extend cellular vitality and reinforce the extracellular matrix make the sugar-peptide mixture a very interesting ingredient for anti-aging cosmetics,”​ lead author Dr Fabio Apone told USA.

Upregulated sirtuins: ‘longevity’ genes

The effects of the sugar-peptide mix were tested in vitro​ on cultured human keratinocytes (HaCaT) and mammalian fibroblasts (NIH-3T3).

According to the study, the treatment with the sugar-peptide mix upregulated the expression of SIRT1 and SIRT6, two proteins of the sirtuin family that are thought to be linked to aging.

In addition, adding hydrogen peroxide downregulated the expression of the sirtuins but this negative effect was much weaker when the sugar-peptide mix was added.

Furthermore, the researchers found that the sugar-peptide mix upregulated the genes related to collagen synthesis and stability as well as inhibiting the expression of genes related to proteins that break down collagen and other structural proteins (matrix metalloproteinases or MMPs).

Apone explained that the effects of the mix were due to the ability of the peptides to trigger cell signaling cascades.

These cascades eventually lead to the up (or down) regulation of genes, and therefore the production (or inhibition) of proteins that in this case were linked to cell protection, DNA repair, and new collagen production.

Apone is confident that the in vivo​ trials that have just started will support those found by the in vitro​ test, and the ingredient is now available under the name Bionymph peptide.

Wild tobacco – high in glycine

The sugar-peptide mix was created by digesting the glycoproteins in the tobacco plant’s cell walls.

Apone explained that the glycoproteins broken down to isolate the sugar-peptide mix have a similar amino acid composition to human collagen.

Wild tobacco (Nicotiana sylvestris​) was chosen as it has particularly high levels of glycine and proline, the most abundant amino acids in human collagen, he explained.

“Similar peptide preparations can be obtained from other plant species as well, but we do not expect them to have exactly the same activities on skin cells as Nicotiana,” ​he said.

Cosmetic ingredients through agricultural research

Dr Fabio Apone is senior research scientist at the Italian biotechnology company Arterra Bioscience.

Arterra’s primary focus is to identify compounds that might help protect crops against environmental and physical stresses, and Apone claims that this study opens up new doors in the search for potential cosmetic ingredients.

“This was the first published article that put together studies on whole plants with those done on human skin cells,”​ Apone explained.

The fact that there appear to be natural products that activate the defence responses in both plants and animals suggests there are common signaling pathways, as well as suggesting new ways to search for cosmetic actives.

“These results indicate that our knowledge and expertise in plant biology and agriculture can be easily exploited to identify new cosmetics ingredients,”​ he said.

Related topics Formulation & Science Skin Care

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