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Is this the ultimate anti-ageing cream?

24 January 2014

The secret to eternal youth has been discovered!

OK, not quite. But researchers at Newcastle University have discovered a new compound that may hold the secret to youthful skin.

It’s called Tiron, it blocks 100 per cent of UVA – the sun radiation that causes the deepest, most serious skin damage – and what’s more, it could also be the key to the most effective sunscreen ever and a powerful tool in the fight against skin cancer.

Scientists at the university’s Institute of Cellular Medicine made the discovery while they were investigating a number of antioxidants that block UVA.

They found the strongest antioxidants were the ones that got to the cell mitochondria – the ‘batteries’ that power cells.

Only Tiron gave 100 per cent UVA protection, 100 per cent protection against mitochondrial DNA damage and 100 per cent protection from other molecules (produced by UVA) that damage the skin and make it look ‘old’.

Dr Anne Oyewole, who co-wrote the study as part of her PhD in Molecular and Cellular Biology, told Education UK: ‘We looked at all different compounds – from pomegranate juice to vitamin C – that could influence UVA.

 ‘Anything like this that can increase our protection from UVA is a good thing for skincare, and especially for sunscreen, as it could be very significant in terms of protecting against skin cancer.

‘The next step is to look at the compound in other forms, to find ways of working with experts in other fields such as pharmaceuticals to take it further and do more vigorous testing into how we can develop it into something people can actually use.’

The study – funded by the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBRSC) and Unilever – was led by Professor Mark Birch-Machin, who runs the Master of Research (MRes) degree at Newcastle.

The MRes is the largest postgraduate taught programme in the university’s Faculty of Medical Sciences – one of the largest medical research departments in the world and recognised as a leader in many fields, in particular ageing research.

It boasts cutting-edge facilities – including a ‘Biobank’ of clinical samples and the brand new Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre.

The Institute of Cellular Medicine, where the study was based, has over 260 staff across the university. It has powered ahead in its research over recent years – since 2010, it has received more than £38m in research funding from Research Councils, charities, the Government and the European Union.

Professor Birch-Machin said: ‘To discover that Tiron offers complete protection against UVA damage is exciting and promising.

‘It is early days as Tiron is not a naturally occurring compound and has not yet been tested for toxicity in humans although there have been a few studies on rats carried out by other scientists outside the UK.’ 

A groundbreaking PhD: Meet the student who helped unlock the secrets of Tiron

Anne Oyewole, 29, is a research scientist working on a collaborative project between L’Oréal and Newcastle University… but six years ago, in 2008, she had just graduated from an MRes in Molecular Biology and was looking for a PhD project. The UVA research project with Professor Mark Birch-Machin caught her eye straight away – but she never imagined how exciting the results would be.

‘I wanted to do something that was related to human beings. All my friends and family come and ask me, ‘What should I be using? What should I be eating?’ and I guess that’s what motivates me – all those links to things that could affect our everyday life.

‘My degree in Molecular Biology gave me the foundation for the techniques we used in the project, and I liked the way we were looking at all sorts of things that could influence UVA and the protective effects of antioxidants.

‘We baffled ourselves with this result! No one expected Tiron to be this effective, and that’s what makes it so great! Lots of products already contain things like Vitamin E to protect the skin, but as Tiron is man-made, it’s never been considered.

‘This could be the first step towards something that might be really useful to companies and to normal people. It’s the start of something bigger, and it’s amazing to be part of that.’