|English: Synthesis of collagen, schematic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
From facial peelers to lip treatments to wrinkle fighters, injections, and micro current treatments, collagen is the main line ingredient in anti-aging preparations today. And it is no wonder why. Collagen's role in the aging process is well confirmed. Forming 80% of the connections in the skin, collagen makes up the connective network that supports its cellular structure. Over time, however, at the deepest molecular level, the proteins that connect skin cells slowly diminish in quantity and become thin (stripped down), as do the skin's youthful characteristics. After the age of 25 the molecular structures of these large proteins change and become less able to serve their function. The biological processes that manufacture these large collagen proteins no longer produce them as readily as they once did.
Collagen is of great interest to researchers today because of its ubiquitous nature in the structure of skin and its role in the aging process. Collagen is the most abundant protein, forming strong sheets and cables that support the structure of skin, internal organs, cartilage and bones, as well as all the connective tissue in between. Existing in 80% of the connections of the skin, this master protein is the subject of the millions of dollars spent on collagen research each year. Collagen fibrils of skin are also ever changing, eventually giving way to the signs of aging. Not only do skin cells produce less of it over time, they produce less accurate copies of it. This two-fold process is the fundamental cause of aging and its effects.
However, not all collagen extractions display equal effectiveness. The complications involved in procuring this master protein in its active state, make it difficult for cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies to manufacture. Because of this, concentrations and quality of collagen are tentative--most products containing less than 3% of it as an ingredient, which remains inactive to the biological processes that use it.
Just recently, however, a team of researchers working extensively in an independent study is perhaps the first to understand the importance of biochemical activity in collagen proteins. Through these studies, researchers and chemists, at the institute of chemistry in Gdansk, have extracted a "living" collagen preparation demonstrating an unprecedented ability to fight the cause of aging. The study will quite possibly put a new spin on anti aging skin care today.
While many opponents of collagen treatments insist that collagen cannot absorb into the skin, this independent study in collagen research reveals a new development with the ability to do so. Clearly the high concentration, trans-dermal absorptivity, and biochemical activity do in some way contribute to collagen's effectiveness, despite the fact that previous collagen extractions lack the ability to absorb and be recognized by the biological processes that use it.
Perhaps the most salient attribute of biologically active collagen compounds is their ability to unify with the tightly meshed, cellular matrix of skin that would normally block absorption. The structural similarity of the active protein to that of the skin's proteins acts as an admission ticket to the biological processes that use it, allowing the product to absorb and effectively supplement diminished collagen levels.
Still, the effectiveness of the newly formulated collagen preparation is gaining wide currency in the minds of consumers as an effective means to prevent the signs of aging. As Harry Klenda, President and CEO of Baltic Collagen points out, collagen in its purest and active state is shown to be a multi-factorial solution to the developing cause of aging.
"The only way to really distinguish the efficacy of activated collagen is by substantiating marketing claims with experimental evidence and rigorous clinical trials. Through this methodology, the efficacy of biochemically active collagen is well confirmed. Experimental evidence supports that biochemical activity of applied collagen causes significant changes to the skin's aging properties."In a controlled study involving 20 participants testing the effectiveness of the bio-active collagen, each respondent noted immediate differences from the moment of application: increased firmness, lifted wrinkles, smoothened skin surface, restored slack and notable differences in elasticity. The control group applying an inactive collagen compound reported no such differences. The respondents who continued a four-week treatment regimen using the biologically active collagen noted cumulative changes in their appearance. Results of long-term usage were measured through a combination of input mediums, such as before/after pictures, concurring opinions from a variety of experts, dermal thickness measurements and subjective judgments of results obtained.
Through Clinical trials and experimentation conducted at the institute of chemistry in Gdansk, biochemically active collagen has been experimentally identified to work in six different ways. From the moment of application, the user's skin undergoes an unparalleled lifting effect. In doing so, wrinkles diminish and skin becomes notably thicker, firmer, smoother, and more elastic. And because wrinkles emerge due to lack of flexibility in skin, increasing elasticity shields against the developing cause of aging.
Besides the obvious advantages of restoring flexibility and diminished collagen levels, experimental evidence supports that this activated collagen "creates an environment that makes collagen producing cells (fibroblasts) more active, thereby increasing one's own collagen production," an article in the Archives of Dermatology confirms.
Follow up studies conducted at the University of Michigan use Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy to study the fibroblast growth factor proteins in solution. Through these studies, a newly stabilized, yet active collagen molecule is confirmed to quite possibly mark the first generation of anti aging skin care products to target the direct cause of aging.
However, before May of 2009, previous versions of biochemically active collagen were not yet a sensational discovery. In 2002, the preliminary research arrived at an active collagen preparation with reservations that it only displayed biochemical activity in temperature limits of 41 and 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Beyond that, the collagen molecule would break apart into fragmented segments. It was a major problem to researchers; however, follow up studies continued until another major technological advance came underway, which led the project into a new direction.
In 2009, the first producers of the activated compound discovered a more sophisticated collagen preparation, with dramatic healing properties. Owed to a patented technology, the collagen molecule was successfully stabilized (held together) by a reinforcing mechanism, using hydroxyproline-a hydrogen bonded reinforcing mechanism that combines with the collagen molecule, holding it together. The hydroxylated version of the amino acid, proline, is a major component of the collagen protein. And when successfully combined and cross-linked with collagen, it reinforces the large molecule, keeping its structural integrity intact and its most valuable properties alive.
The powerful intermolecular forces (hydrogen bonding) that reinforce the molecular structure of are the same active forces that attract the molecule to the protein matrix of skin. The points of attraction act as chemical handles that latch onto the skin's cellular matrix like a magnet, pulling it tight and reinforcing the underlying protein configurations whose shortage allows skin cells to fall out of alignment.
Besides the ability to unify with and absorb into the skin's cellular network, as Harry Klenda, president of BCI points out, clinical research indicates that the patented collagen compound neutralizes and protects against free radical damage.
"It is no surprise that free radicals accelerate the aging process. The human body is made up of specialized cells that each perform a specific function. As one ages free radicals, known as aggravated atoms or molecules, slowly damage neighboring cells. When a free radical attacks a nearby atom it steals an electron to become stable. But by taking an electron from another chemical, the donating molecule becomes a free radical itself, and the process repeats. The chain reaction (known as propagation) can be thousands of events long. This is damage, and each event ages one's appearance everyday."However, further experimental evidence suggests that a free radical does little damage when attacking a "loose" protein or other molecule in the body whereas a free radical attacking an integrated collagen protein of the skin causes a break in the collagen strand. Once the proteins of skin obtain multiple breaks, it loses its elastic quality. Skin becomes thin and limp.
Cells on the outer epidermal layer of skin are each subjected to 5,000 free radical attacks every day. And because the number of damaged cells is constantly increasing, so is the demand for antioxidants. But as the ability to produce antioxidants in ones own defense diminishes, the aging process speeds up every year.
Experimental evidence supports that collagen in its active state protects against free radical damage in two ways, reports Harry Klenda, President of BCI: It acts as a sacrificial target of free radical attacks, and seals out pollution generated free radicals in the environment. The preparation attracts internally created radicals like a magnet, while shielding externally introduced free radicals from moving across the dermal barrier.
"The applied collagen [loose collagen protein] gets attacked before free radicals make their way into the internally attached collagen proteins of skin; it also seals out environmental stressors that cause aging: pollution, heavy metals, and biochemical processes. It is a synchronized complex with dual (overlapping) antioxidant action; everyday that one applies an activated collagen is a day that the skin does not age."By analyzing the benefits of biochemical activity, purity, and absorptivity, it appears that new advances in the cosmetic industry may prosper significantly from this new finding in collagen research. Through these studies, a newly stabilized, yet active collagen molecule has emerged with the unprecedented ability to absorb and combine with aged proteins--quite possibly marking the first generation of skin care products to target the direct cause of aging as opposed to the effects. Clinical results bring promising findings to universal applications in the medical industry as well.
John Rathers is a syndicated columnist who writes for chemistry journals and a variety of other purposes. Mr. Rathers graduated from Southern Polytechnic State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a minor in Chemistry and a minor in Spanish. Currently he works in public relations, and owns a business in technical writing.
Alex, Carl A. "Skin Free Radical Damage." 4 Sept. 2008. Web. 16 July 2010.
Fisher, Gary J., John J. Voorhees, and James Varani. "Looking Older: Fibroblast Collapse and Therapeutic Implications." Archives of Dermatology, a Monthly Peer-reviewed Medical Journal Published by AMA. 7 May 2008. Web. 12 June 2010.
Klenda, Harry M. "What Is Collagen?" Baltic Collagen. 13 June 2009. Web. 14 July 2010.