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Anti-aging Ingredient Possibly Linked to Tumor Development

Posted: March 13, 2008

A leading scientist has urged caution regarding a new class of anti-aging ingredients that has been associated with tumor formation in laboratory studies.

In a communication published in the journal Experimental Dermatology, Alan Verkman from the University of California questions the safety of a number of anti-aging ingredients that upregulate the expression of the protein aquaporin-3 (AQP3).

Protein facilitates water movement and 'moisturization'
AQP3 is a member of a family of membrane proteins called the aquaporins that play a role in water movement in and out of cells. It is the membrane protein found in human skin cells, and it is thought to facilitate the movement of water and glycerol across skin cell membranes.

This relationship between the expression of AQP3 and the water content or 'moisturization' of the skin has prompted a number of companies to release ingredients that upregulate the expression of the membrane protein and thereby improve skin moisturization. However, according to Verkman, there may be an association between the epidermal expression of AQP3 and skin tumor formation.

AQP3 expression and tumor formation?
Human squamous cell carcinomas, the second most common form of skin cancer, strongly express the AQP3 protein, according to Verkman. In addition, mice lacking the AQP3 protein failed to form tumors, whereas the wild-type mice--mice with the normal AQP3 gene--that underwent the same tumor-inducing conditions formed multiple tumors.

Furthermore, in general, the expression of the aquaporin proteins in tumor cells has been found to increase their migration, invasiveness and metastatic potential, according to the scientist; however, there is no data for the effect of AQP3 and the migration of skin cell tumors.