Aging Skin: Can DNA Turn Back the Clock?

NEW YORK, NY (September 12, 2002) — What if you could alter the aging process of your skin, maintaining a more youthful appearance for years or even decades longer? That's the aim of new DNA research reported in the current issue of Aesthetic Surgery Journal (ASJ), the peer-reviewed publication of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS).

Over time, our skin thins, loses elasticity and becomes discolored. Some of these changes are caused by external stimuli - exposure to the sun, for example - but genetics also determines a great deal. New research, reported in ASJ, is using a technique called "gene expression profiling" to analyze facial skin from young and old patients undergoing aesthetic plastic surgery. The idea is to identify those specific genes that change with aging, with the ultimate goal of targeting these genes for intervention therapies to be developed in the future

This is the first time that this gene technology, using DNA microarrays (tiny microchips with DNA samples), is being used to study aging skin. Although much work remains to be done, the results so far are encouraging. "We estimate that our statistical methods will limit the number of genes to a workable range of 30 to 100," says Chicago plastic surgeon Mary McGrath, MD, author of the research report.

Cosmetic surgery can reduce many of the visible signs of facial aging by eliminating excess skin, repositioning the soft tissues of the face and resurfacing the skin with the use of chemical or laser treatments. "Although these operations are effective, they are ultimately limited by the continual aging of the skin," says Dr. McGrath. "Reaching the next plateau in aesthetic surgery may involve addressing the intrinsic changes that occur with aging."

We know that the physiological process of aging skin is influenced by the switching on and off of certain genes. What researchers want to find out is exactly which genes are responsible, and what can be done to alter the process. "Influencing gene expression may make it possible for the aesthetic plastic surgeon to offer therapies for maintaining the skin qualities that make rejuvenation surgery, especially secondary procedures and surgery in the elderly patient, most effective," says Dr. McGrath. "I would hesitate to say that we ever will be able to genetically control the aging process, but someday we may at least be able to alter some of the structural and functional changes that cause our skin to age."

Mary McGrath, MD, is available for interviews.
Contact the ASAPS Communications Office: 212-921-0500.

Note: Dr. McGrath's study is funded by a 2001 research grant awarded by the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation (ASERF).


The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world's leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body. ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; Active Members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and nonsurgical aesthetic procedures. International Active Members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.


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