What could be easier than using a cream to cover up fine lines and wrinkles to create the appearance of a smooth, youthful skin? Well, maybe by having a skin that never develops these signs of ageing in the first place.
Anti-ageing skin care has of course been around for many years in various forms, but in recent years technology has developed considerably, notably in the study of cellular senescence and the shortening of telomeres (regions at the end of each chromosome), a process which has been targeted by some cosmetic active ingredients already.
It is the process of telomere shortening that is seen as the key to ageing in animals (and is therefore known as ‘the molecular clock’), although some animals have displayed an ability to regulate the activity differently. For instance, planarian worms!
Earlier this year, a paper was published in the PNAS about these seemingly immortal creatures. Studies have shown they have the ability to regenerate both their tail and their head – essentially making them indestructible. The paper revealed that asexual planarian worms bypass normal telomere shortening seen in non-asexual species.
This fascinating insight into these outwardly insignificant worms shows that the process of ageing governed by cellular senescence is not universal to all life forms; evolution has found ways around it, and we’re only just starting to understand them. It’s too early to say whether these findings will have any influence on anti-ageing creams of the future, but it seems at least the process of ageing which has fascinated humans for so long is now giving up all its secrets.
Unfortunately, true immortality is effectively ruled out thanks to the Second Law of Thermal Dynamics, but that still leaves the opportunity to slow down natural ageing and the appearance of its obvious signs. It will be very interesting indeed to see how this segment of personal care products continues to develop and where the sources of new inspiration spring from.