Particular RNA molecules can be used to restructure the cellular damage of the epidermis and therefore, in a future perspective, also to rejuvenate the skin: it is the discovery made by a group of researchers at the Johns Hopkins University medical school.
The study, published in Nature Communications, speaks of free RNA fragments, called non-coding double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that can stimulate a particular regeneration of hair follicles after a wound. This is a type of regeneration already known and used by rodents when they need to regenerate their skin after damage.
According to the authors of this new study, dsRNA is released from the damaged cells at the site of the injury. To arrive at this discovery, the researchers performed biopsies on 17 female patients on whom laser therapies were performed for rejuvenation or skin modeling, for example to clear sun spots or wrinkles. The treatments were performed on the face and arms and the average age of the patients was 55 years.
By analyzing the expression levels of genes in the samples collected, the researchers discovered the important role of dsRNA and the genes involved in the production of natural retinoic acid. After laser treatments, the expressions of these genes had much higher levels. By treating skin cells isolated in the laboratory directly with the dissolved dsRNA, the researchers imitated the effect of the lasers by increasing retinoic acid in the cells themselves.
Among other things, the latter is already available in some commercial products to treat acne and other skin defects.
This means that these treatments and the same retinoic acid “are really working in the same molecular pathways and no one knew it until now,” as specified by Luis Garza, professor of dermatology and one of the authors of the study.
These results could help in the implementation of new therapies or strategies to reduce skin defects such as wrinkles or burn scars by directly using retinoic acid in new ways.