New role discovered for vitamin C in protecting the skin
19 September 2009
Researchers at the University of Leicester and the Institute for
Molecular and Cellular Biology in Portugal have discovered new
protective properties of vitamin C in cells from the human skin, which
could lead to development of better skin-regeneration products.
The work, by Tiago Duarte, Marcus S. Cooke and G. Don Jones, found
that a form of Vitamin C helped to promote wound healing and also helped
protect the DNA damage of skin cells. Their findings have been published
in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.
This report is the latest in a long line of publications from these
researchers, at the University of Leicester, concerning vitamin C.
Previously, the group has published evidence that DNA repair is
upregulated in people consuming vitamin C supplements. The researchers
have now provided some mechanistic evidence for this, in cell culture,
using techniques such as Affymetrix microarray, for looking at gene
expression, and the ‘Comet’ assay to study DNA damage and repair.
Tiago Duarte, formerly of the University of Leicester, and now at the
Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology in Portugal, said: “The
exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation increases in summer, often
resulting in a higher incidence of skin lesions. Ultraviolet radiation
is also a genotoxic agent responsible for skin cancer, through the
formation of free radicals and DNA damage.
“Our study analysed the effect of sustained exposure to a vitamin C
derivative, ascorbic acid 2-phosphate (AA2P), in human dermal
fibroblasts. We investigated which genes are activated by vitamin C in
these cells, which are responsible for skin regeneration.
“The results demonstrated that vitamin C may improve wound healing by
stimulating quiescent fibroblasts to divide and by promoting their
migration into the wounded area. Vitamin C could also protect the skin
by increasing the capacity of fibroblasts to repair potentially
mutagenic DNA lesions.”
Even though vitamin C was discovered over 70 years ago as the agent
that prevents scurvy, its properties are still under much debate in the
scientific community. In fact, the annual meeting of the International
Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine, which will be held this
year in San Francisco (USA), will feature a session dedicated to vitamin
C, entitled “New discoveries for an old vitamin".
Dr Marcus S. Cooke from the Department of Cancer Studies and
Molecular Medicine and Department of Genetics, at the University of
Leicester, added: “The study indicates a mechanism by which vitamin C
could contribute to the maintenance of a healthy skin by promoting wound
healing and by protecting cellular DNA against damage caused by
oxidation”. “These findings are particular importance to our
photobiology interests, and we will certainly be looking into this
These results will be of great relevance to the cosmetics industry.
Free radicals are associated with premature skin aging, and
antioxidants, such as vitamin C, are known to counter these highly
damaging compounds. This new evidence suggest that, in addition to
‘mopping up’ free radicals, vitamin C can help remove the DNA damage
they form, if they get past the cell’s defences.
The study has the potential to lead to advances in the prevention and
treatment of skin lesions specifically, as well as contributing to the
fight against cancer.
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