Researchers Identify Genes Associated with Ageless Women


Harvard Researchers, Olay and 23andMe teamed up to conduct a study that links gene expression to the appearance of women's skin with age. The Multi-Decade and Ethnicity (MDE) study reveals biological commonalities among a unique subset of women who look exceptionally younger than their age. Additionally, the research found specific gene expression changes that impact the skin aging process during each decade of a women’s life.

The MDE study, which was initiated in 2012 and led by Alexa Kimball, M.D., professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital, marries genotypic and phenotypic science and examines Caucasian, African, Hispanic and Asian women in decades from 20-70. 23andMe was utilized to further understand the genes linked to skin aging and their biological variability across different ethnicities.

Skin Fingerprint

The initial findings of this MDE study include data from Caucasian and African research participants. It showed that there are similarities among women who have aged well naturally. Through advanced bioinformatics analysis of approximately 20,000 genes, Olay identified a unique skin fingerprint among these “exceptional skin agers” comprised of around 2,000 genes. They are responsible for a range of key biochemical pathways, including those involved in cellular energy production, cell junction and adhesion processes, skin and moisture barrier formation, DNA repair and replication and antioxidant production.

Although these genes are in humanskin, how they are expressed determines if someone ages well. Of course, that can be influenced by environmental factors, lifestyle choices and even skin care habits. The researchers hope that they can decode the how and why of this skin fingerprint to allow all women age beautifully.

Tipping Points

The study also found distinct gene expression “tipping points” that occur in each decade as a subset of Caucasian women aged, including: a decline in antioxidant response (20s); a decline in skin bioenergy (30s); an increase in cellular senescence (40s); a decline in skin barrier function (50s); and an acceleration of all the above (60s).

Aging and Ethnicity

23andMe also examined the exact ethnic ancestry profiles of all MDE study participants. Olay has begun linking these ancestry profiles to skin properties to learn more about how skin ages among different ethnicities.

Olay is continuing to collect and analyze samples from Asian and Hispanic women in their 20s to 70s to broaden the application of the study’s findings. Once completed, the MDE study will have examined female skin aging throughout six distinct decades and across four different ethnicities.

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