Public Release: 

Study reveals new role of vitamin C in skin protection

Results will be of great relevance to the cosmetics industry

University of Leicester

Scientists have uncovered a new role played by Vitamin C in protecting the skin.

Researchers at the University of Leicester and Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology in Portugal studied new protective properties of vitamin C in cells from the human skin, which could lead to better skin regeneration.

The work, by Tiago Duarte, Marcus S. Cooke and G. Don Jones, found that a form of Vitamin C helped to promote wound healing and also helped protect the DNA damage of skin cells. Their findings have been published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine. This report is the latest in a long line of publications from these researchers, at the University of Leicester, concerning vitamin C. Previously, the group has published evidence that DNA repair is upregulated in people consuming vitamin C supplements. The researchers have now provided some mechanistic evidence for this, in cell culture, using techniques such as Affymetrix microarray, for looking at gene expression, and the 'Comet' assay to study DNA damage and repair.

Tiago Duarte, formerly of the University of Leicester, and now at the Institute for Molecular and Cellular Biology in Portugal, said: "The exposure to solar ultraviolet radiation increases in summer, often resulting in a higher incidence of skin lesions. Ultraviolet radiation is also a genotoxic agent responsible for skin cancer, through the formation of free radicals and DNA damage.

"Our study analysed the effect of sustained exposure to a vitamin C derivative, ascorbic acid 2-phosphate (AA2P), in human dermal fibroblasts. We investigated which genes are activated by vitamin C in these cells, which are responsible for skin regeneration.

"The results demonstrated that vitamin C may improve wound healing by stimulating quiescent fibroblasts to divide and by promoting their migration into the wounded area. Vitamin C could also protect the skin by increasing the capacity of fibroblasts to repair potentially mutagenic DNA lesions."

Even though vitamin C was discovered over 70 years ago as the agent that prevents scurvy, its properties are still under much debate in the scientific community. In fact, the annual meeting of the International Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine, which will be held this year in San Francisco (USA), will feature a session dedicated to vitamin C, entitled "New discoveries for an old vitamin".

Dr Marcus S. Cooke from the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and Department of Genetics, at the University of Leicester, added: "The study indicates a mechanism by which vitamin C could contribute to the maintenance of a healthy skin by promoting wound healing and by protecting cellular DNA against damage caused by oxidation". "These findings are particular importance to our photobiology interests, and we will certainly be looking into this further".

These results will be of great relevance to the cosmetics industry. Free radicals are associated with premature skin aging, and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, are known to counter these highly damaging compounds. This new evidence suggest that, in addition to 'mopping up' free radicals, vitamin C can help remove the DNA damage they form, if they get past the cell's defences.

The study has the potential to lead to advances in the prevention and treatment of skin lesions specifically, as well as contributing to the fight against cancer.

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NOTE TO NEWSDESK

For more information, contact:
Dr. Marcus S. Cooke
Senior Lecturer.
Dept. Cancer Studies and Dept. Genetics,
Radiation and Oxidative Stress Section,
University of Leicester
Tel: +44(0)116 252 5825,
Fax/answerphone: +44(0)116 252 5832.
http://www.le.ac.uk/cm/staff/msc5_full.html

University of Leicester - Times Higher Education University of the Year 2008/09

Press Office Contact:
Ather Mirza
Press Office
Division of Marketing and Communications
University of Leicester
University Road
Leicester
LE1 7RH
tel: 0116 252 3335
email: pressoffice@le.ac.uk

ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF LEICESTER

  • A member of the 1994 Group of universities that share a commitment to research excellence, high quality teaching and an outstanding student experience.
  • Named University of the Year by Times Higher (2008) Shortlisted (2006, 2005) and by the Sunday Times (2007)
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Founded in 1921, the University of Leicester has more than 20,000 students from 136 countries. Teaching in 18 subject areas has been graded Excellent by the Quality Assurance Agency- including 14 successive scores - a consistent run of success matched by just one other UK University. Leicester is world renowned for the invention of DNA Fingerprinting by Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys and houses Europe's biggest academic Space Research Centre. The latest Research Assessment Exercise adjudged Leicester to have world leading research in every subject panel and identified Museum Studies (at 65%) as having the highest proportion of world leading researchers compared with any other subject area at any university in the UK. Leicester also emerged as having one of the highest proportions of staff who are research active in the UK, with approximately 93% of staff submitted for the exercise. The University's research grant income places it among the top 20 UK research universities. The University employs over 3,000 people, has an annual turnover of over £200m, covers an estate of 94 hectares and is engaged in a £300m investment programme- among the biggest of any UK university.

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