Discovering Anti-Aging Compounds in Seaweed

Greg Howard
7th May, 2024

Discovering Anti-Aging Compounds in Seaweed

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Researchers at South China University of Technology studied brown seaweed's anti-aging effects on skin
  • They found that modified seaweed polysaccharides can protect skin cells from UV damage
  • The treatment improved skin cell survival and boosted collagen, reducing signs of aging
Seaweed, a humble marine plant, has been a staple in the diet and medicinal practices of various cultures for centuries. Beyond its culinary uses, seaweed harbors a treasure trove of bioactive compounds that have captured the attention of researchers for their potential health benefits. These benefits range from combating oxidative stress to anti-inflammatory and even anti-cancer properties[2]. The South China University of Technology has recently shed light on the specific components within seaweed that contribute to one of its most promising applications: the prevention of skin aging caused by sun exposure, also known as photoaging[1]. Photoaging is a process where the skin ages prematurely due to repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, primarily from the sun. This can lead to wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and other cosmetic concerns that many find undesirable. The search for natural and effective anti-photoaging agents is a significant field in dermatological research, with the aim to find safer alternatives to synthetic compounds. In the groundbreaking study by the South China University of Technology, researchers delved into the anti-photoaging properties of polysaccharides extracted from a type of brown seaweed called Sargassum fusiforme. Polysaccharides are long-chain carbohydrates that play various roles in biological processes. Prior to this study, it was understood that these seaweed-derived molecules had beneficial effects on skin health, but the exact components responsible for these effects were not well-defined. The study's findings are particularly exciting because they identify the specific composition within the seaweed that combats the effects of photoaging. This discovery not only enhances our understanding of how natural products can protect our skin but also opens the door to developing new skincare products and treatments. It's important to note that marine algae polysaccharides (MAPs) are structurally distinct from those found in terrestrial plants, and human digestive enzymes cannot break them down[3]. This uniqueness also extends to their interaction with the human gut microbiota, where MAPs may encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria and the production of health-promoting metabolites. Their potential as prebiotics is just beginning to be explored, suggesting that the benefits of seaweed polysaccharides go beyond skin health. However, the application of seaweed polysaccharides has been limited by their high molecular weight and poor solubility. This is where the study from the South China University of Technology makes a significant leap forward. By employing a technique using ultraviolet light in combination with hydrogen peroxide (UV/H2O2), researchers were able to degrade the polysaccharides into smaller, more soluble molecules without altering their beneficial functional groups[4]. This process not only made the polysaccharides more usable but also enhanced their anti-photoaging activity. When tested on human skin cells that had been damaged by UV radiation, these modified polysaccharides improved cell viability and increased the production of hydroxyproline, a key component of collagen. Collagen is the protein that gives skin its firmness and elasticity, and its degradation is a hallmark of photoaging. The study also revealed that the optimized polysaccharides could upregulate the production of collagen while reducing the levels of inflammatory cytokines that contribute to skin aging[4]. This dual action of promoting skin repair and reducing inflammation is a powerful combination in the fight against photoaging. The implications of this research are far-reaching. Not only does it validate the use of seaweed in skincare but it also provides a method to enhance the efficacy of its bioactive compounds. Furthermore, it underscores the importance of sustainable and natural ingredients in the development of functional foods and pharmaceuticals[3]. In conclusion, the South China University of Technology's research presents a compelling case for the power of seaweed polysaccharides in protecting our skin from the ravages of the sun. It bridges the gap between traditional uses of seaweed and modern scientific understanding, showing how targeted treatments can be developed from natural resources. As we continue to seek out safe, effective, and sustainable ingredients for health and wellness, seaweed polysaccharides stand out as a promising resource with a wide array of applications.

HealthBiochemMarine Biology


Main Study

1) The isolation, structure characterizations and anti-photoaging activities of sulfated polysaccharides isolated from Sargassum fusiforme

Published 6th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Recent advances in industrial applications of seaweeds.

3) Current trends in marine algae polysaccharides: The digestive tract, microbial catabolism, and prebiotic potential.

4) Enhanced In Vitro Anti-Photoaging Effect of Degraded Seaweed Polysaccharides by UV/H2O2 Treatment.

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