Youthful looks have been a goal striven for since the start of civilization. Despite our obsession to slow down the ageing process, very little is actually known regarding the molecular processes behind it. Recent work has revealed that DNA variations, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), in the MC1R gene are associated with facial ageing and perceived age.
People have always strived for a youthful image, as it is a symbol of health, beauty, and class. Therefore, understanding the underlying mechanisms of facial ageing is a hot topic in the world of science. Despite this, there has been limited scientific progress made in elucidating the exact molecular mechanisms of facial ageing. Recent evidence suggests that genetics may play a vital role in perceived age and facial ageing. Understanding the genetic components involved may open the doors for the discovery and development of novel anti-ageing therapies and cosmetics.
A report published in Current Biology investigated whether variations in the genetic code could be linked to perceived age. The researchers carried out genome wide association studies (GWAS) on 2,693 Dutch subjects to investigate whether small DNA variations, called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), are associated with perceived age. They discovered that several SNPs located near the MC1R gene on chromosome 16 were associated with perceived age. The association was profound even after adjusting for other factors including age, sex, and wrinkles. The results were confirmed using two unrelated samples from the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Finally, the researchers noted that the association between the SNPs of the MC1R gene and perceived age were independent of skin color, pigmented spots, and the level of sun exposure. The MC1R gene, encoding the melanocortin receptor, functions in melanogenesis, inflammation, DNA repair, and skin healing and repair. However, further research is necessary to determine the exact molecular mechanism underlying facial aging and the role MC1R variants play in this pathway.
In summary, researchers successfully demonstrated that SNPs near the MC1R gene are associated with perceived age and facial aging. Nevertheless, additional studies are required to determine how these MC1R variants influence facial ageing. These results have significant implications in several different fields including cosmetics and forensic science. Upon establishing the roles of MC1R in ageing, researchers could develop molecules that target MC1R variants that promote older facial features.
Written By: Haisam Shah, BSc