Tag Archives: anti-aging

Extracts from summer or fall red maple leaves are formulated into a powder that could be incorporated in skincare products to prevent wrinkles. Credit: Hang Ma.

Maple leaf extract might slow down skin aging and prevent wrinkles

Extracts from summer or fall red maple leaves are formulated into a powder that could be incorporated in skincare products to prevent wrinkles. Credit: Hang Ma.

Extracts from summer or fall red maple leaves are formulated into a powder that could be incorporated in skincare products to prevent wrinkles. Credit: Hang Ma.

Maple trees are famous for their sweet sap out of which American farmers make syrup. But it seems that the iconic tree’s leaves are also useful for skincare. Reporting their findings at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), scientists claim that a maple leaf extract may slow down the skin’s aging process and prevent wrinkles.

Maple leaf botox

The maple tree was of particular importance to the Algonquian tribes of the northwestern United States and western Canada. These Native American people became very apt at turning sap into maple sugar, maple syrup, and taffy candy, but also incorporated maple bark and leaves into their traditional medicine.  For these reasons, the maple leaf symbol was an important design motif in Algonquian beadwork.

Researchers at the University of Rhode Island were inspired by Native American herbal medicine to study the properties of maple more closely. Previously, the team led by Navindra Seeram had studied the health benefits of sap and syrup extracted from the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) and red maple trees (Acer rubrum). In their latest study, the scientists zeroed in on chemicals found in the leaves of the maple trees.

As we age, the skin loses its elasticity because an enzyme called elastase breaks down elastin proteins. Along with the loss of collagen and glycosaminoglycans or GAGs (which keep the skin hydrated), elastin breakdown leads to wrinkles.

Maple leaves contain phenolic compounds called glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs), some of which that seem capable of inhibiting elastase activity in test tube experiments. The researchers found that GCGs containing multiple galloyl groups (a type of phenolic group) were more effective than those with a single galloyl group.

The same GCGs also protect the skin from inflammation and lighten dark spots (unwanted freckles or age spots), the research team showed in previous work.

Together, these properties suggest that maple leaf extract could be turned into an anti-aging product. The researchers liken the product to a plant-based Botox, although it would be a topical application instead of an injection. And unlike Botox, the maple extract would be completely natural, which consumers appreciate in growing numbers.

Seeram and colleagues have already developed a patent-pending formulation, which they named MaplifaTM, and hope to find a market for it as soon as possible. If proven lucrative, a maple skincare product could provide a much-needed boost to local farmers who currently exploit only the sap from maple trees.

“If these products come to fruition, the team’s findings could benefit the local economy. “Many botanical ingredients traditionally come from China, India and the Mediterranean, but the sugar maple and the red maple only grow in eastern North America,” Seeram says.

Naked mole-rats live extremely long lives and do not age, study finds

Biology’s ‘ugly duckling’ cannot cease to amaze us. Researchers have analyzed a large trove of data on historical naked mole-rat lifespan and discovered something truly amazing. Not only do the naked mole-rats live 5 times longer than a similar-sized mammal, but they also do not show any signs of aging whatsoever.

Credits: Flickr/Tim Evanson

Naked mole-rats’ superpowers

Mole-rats are astonishing creatures. What they lack in aesthetics they make up in superpowers: they’re immune to cancer, don’t feel pain, can switch from being cold-blooded to warm-blooded, can run backward as fast as forward, and can live in extremely low oxygen conditions, their brains being capable of surviving without oxygen for up to five hours. Also, their front teeth grow out in front of their mouths.

Their behavior is even weirder. The African mole-rat, scientifically known as Heterocephalus galber, exhibits eusociality. This means that mole-rats social life is more like an ant’s than that of a typical mammal. Only the queen and one to three chosen males are fertile and are in charge of reproduction. The other members of the colony (usually consisting of almost 300 mole-rats) are in charge of food gathering, burrow security, digging tunnels, tunnel maintenance, some of them even being nannies.

If the queen dies, any other unfertile female can be crowned. The regular working mole-rat is unfertile but can turn on the reproduction function if needed. Some biologists suggest that this could be one of the reasons mole-rats live such long lives, they believe that the tiny creatures are just waiting patiently to have offsprings.

Forever young

Lead researcher Rochelle Buffenstein has studied naked mole-rats for over 30 years and has collected a huge amount data on them, including lifespan. The comparative biologist, who works for Google’s anti-aging company Calico, was completely amazed by the results. She gathered data from over 3,000 specimens from her lab and discovered that the Gompertz-Makeham law, a mathematical equation that relates aging to mortality, doesn’t apply to mole-rats.

Basically, the law says that the risk of dying rises exponentially with age; in humans, for example, it doubles roughly every 8 years after the age of 30. This theory successfully applies to most animals, especially to mammals, but apparently not to our rodent super-heroes. A naked mole-rat’s daily risk of dying is a little more than one in 10,000, even after reaching sexual maturity at 6 months, and stays the same throughout their lives, sometimes even going down a little bit more. If this isn’t unfathomable, I truly don’t know what is.

“To me this is the most exciting data I’ve ever gotten,” says Buffenstein. “It goes against everything we know in terms of mammalian biology.”

Different studies have shown that the rodent possesses certain aging-protective qualities like very active DNA repair and high levels of chaperones, which are helper proteins that support other molecules in folding correctly. Buffenstein thinks that the almost-cute animal focusses more on keeping what it already has, rather than accumulate damage.

Adding the small number of predators, high resistance to cancer and friendly behavior to the equation, we might understand why these animals have such a small risk of dying prematurely.The oldest mole-rat in captivity is 35 years old. A mouse its size lives no longer than 4 years.

But anti-aging is something else, completely. For a change, the mole-rats’ blood vessels retain their elasticity, and the queens do not enter menopause and are still able to breed even at the age of thirty.

“Our research demonstrates that naked mole rats do not age in the same manner as other mammals, and in fact show little to no signs of ageing, and their risk of death does not increase even at 25 times past their time to reproductive maturity,” Buffenstein said.

“These findings reinforce our belief that naked mole rats are exceptional animals to study to further our understanding of the biological mechanisms of longevity.”

The paper was published Jan 24, 2018, in the journal eLIFE.