Unilever research into ‘youthful’ gene could be anti-ageing breakthrough

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever research into ‘youthful’ gene could be anti-ageing breakthrough

Related tags Innovation Ageing Research and development

Researchers say they have identified the first genetic evidence to explain the difference between perceived age and actual age, and the secret may be in the MC1R gene.

A research and development team at personal care giant Unilever teamed up with scientists at the Erasmus MC University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Netherlands and other scientific partners made the discovery on the back of a large collaborative study on ageing.

Ultimately it is hoped that this will provide further insight into the physical ageing process and potentially throw light on new and more effective ways to control it.

Unilever believes this is a big breakthrough

“This research is tremendously exciting and opens up brand new understanding of why some people maintain a more youthful appearance as they age,” ​Unilever senior scientist and study co-leader Dr. David Gunn said.

“By learning the ‘secrets’ of those who look young for their age, we can find innovate ways to help everybody keep younger looking for longer in the future.”

Dr. Gunn says he believes that, although there is a lot of work to be done to further the study, the team is hoping that the outcome will influence future product development and innovation at Unilever.

Raising the bar on future skin care innovation?

Unilever owns several of the world’s most successful skin care brands, including Ponds and Dove, St Ives and Simple, which are all highly focused on anti-ageing and skin protection, so this would be one of the most obvious categories within the company’s portfolio to benefit from developments arising from the research..

The depth of the study certainly lends it additional gravitas thanks to the fact that more than 4,000 people were assessed according to their perceived age from facial photos.

In total this assessment involved more than 100,000 indicators of perceived age, which were then compared to over 8 million variants in the DNA of the photographed participants, with the data used to see if there were any connections between gene types and perceived age.

A first-of-a-kind study

Said to be the first ever study of its kind, the results were published in the journals Current Biology and made some particularly noteworthy for one form of gene, MC1R, which is also the gene associated with red hair and freckles.

The researchers say that now the data has been fully assessed the next step in the research will be to further investigate the molecular links between perceived age, biological age and chronological age.

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