Scientists Find A New Drug That Can Reduce Wrinkles & Even Skin Tone

mbg Editorial Assistant By Jamie Schneider
mbg Editorial Assistant
Jamie Schneider is the Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen with a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan. She's previously written for Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare.
Study Finds This Medication May Reduce Wrinkles & Even Skin Tone

Image by Liliya Rodnikova / Stocksy

Collagen seems to be one of the buzziest words in wellness, with just about anyone's ears perked up at the mention of the word—no matter how young they are. Because when it comes to healthy skin aging, we know that prevention is everything, and delaying the process before it starts is key to maintaining a smooth, even complexion well into the autumn of life. 

Enter all the collagen-promoting creams, serums, supplements, and diets the world has to offer—and now, a new drug may be just the trick. 

A new study published in the journal GeroScience found a new, unexpected formula to help with healthy aging. This specific drug—called rapamycin—has been primarily used for patients who have undergone an organ transplant, as it helps prevent the immune system from rejecting the new organ. Rapamycin has also been used to combat a rare lung disease called lymphangioleiomyomatosis, as well as inhibiting tumor growth. 

Rapamycin has been shown to be beneficial for our health. But what makes it so good for skin care?

Researchers have previously studied how rapamycin can delay the aging process of cell cultures, discovering that the drug can increase the life span of yeast cells. However, the effects on human tissue has remained unknown—until now. 

During this particular study, 13 participants over the age of 40 applied a rapamycin cream every couple of days to one hand and a placebo to the other hand for eight months; the researchers then checked on these participants after two, four, six, and eight months. They found that the rapamycin hands had increased levels of collagen and lower levels of a protein called p16 (which, according to the study, is associated with wrinkles and skin-cell aging). This resulted in decreased appearance of wrinkles, reduced sagging, and a more even skin tone.


How does rapamycin work, exactly?

The drug blocks the inflammation associated with the stress response from a new organ, and it also slows the cell cycle process of creating a tumor, which makes it significant for cell aging. After all, inflammation and cell function are key during the aging process, so it's only fitting that a drug that answers to these two components can have significant effects on longevity.  

"[The skin is] a complex organism with immune, nerve cells, stem cells—you can learn a lot about the biology of a drug and the aging process by looking at skin," says senior author Christian Sell, Ph.D. In this case, it's learning about the biology of the drug and the aging process itself that helped researchers discover its benefits for skin care, but the two are related nonetheless. 

What's next for this research?

"As researchers continue to seek out the elusive 'fountain of youth' and ways to live longer, we're seeing growing potential for use of this drug," Sell notes.

Despite the growing potential, this drug hasn't exactly made it to market (yet!). Future studies are still needed to figure out how we can create topical solutions and supplements that can be sold over the counter. There are pending patents of this technology, however, so it's safe to say that this drug has caught the attention of a few shareholders.

So there could very well be another item to add to your skin care arsenal. Here's hoping—and to healthy, glowing skin at the cellular level.

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