A pioneering new study may have just found the answer scientists have been asking for years: how to stay looking youthful for longer. Japanese scientists have discovered a collagen protein, which is referred to as Collagen XV11 or COL17A1, that plays a significant role in skin aging. They’ve even tested ways to reverse the damage and effects that this protein breakdown has on the skin.

How do skin cells work?

Researchers at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Japan carried out this one-of-a-kind study using mice tails to replicate the human skin. The team’s results were surprising, with findings suggesting that COL17A1 plays a crucial role in the development of stem cells. It was discovered that the protein effectively encourages cells to fight each other to be the best that they can be while forcing the poorest quality cells to be destroyed.

Why do skin cells break down?

As the stem cells continue to battle with each other, an increasing number of them become weaker. When the skin is still young, these cells hide away, and the healthy cells make their way to the top of the epidermis, resulting in a glowing and enviable complexion. But, as the strongest cells begin to weaken, they have to admit defeat and, ultimately, more of the weakened cells become prevalent, and this results in the skin aging.

COL17A1’s role in aging

COL17A1 effectively helps to keep the skin looking youthful, healthy, and refreshed. However, with age, the amount of COL17A1 in the skin naturally depletes, and this leaves individuals with skin prone to the effects of aging, including dryness, discoloration, wrinkles, and sagging. It’s not solely COL17A1 which impacts on the appearance and quality of the skin, though. Sun exposure is a leading cause of damaged skin, and contributes significantly to the aging process. Meanwhile, environmental factors, including pollution, are known to trigger the aging process too. But, perhaps one of the biggest problems is caused by the lifestyle individuals choose to lead. Smoking, drinking, diet, and exercise all have a part to play in the quality of one’s skin, according to experts. As such, if you want to appear younger for longer, you should avoid smoking, limit your alcohol intake, consume a healthy and nutritious diet, and exercise frequently.

Can COL17A1 be regrown?

Once the scientists at Tokyo Medical and Dental University established the importance of COL17A1 in skin health, they decided to examine whether they could reproduce the protein once the skin’s natural reserves start to diminish. This led them to determine that, in test conditions, the chemicals Y27632 and apocynin, are capable of producing Collagen XV11, as the test showed that they encouraged cell regrowth on wounded skin. This led them to conclude that it is indeed possible to find ways of “facilitating skin regeneration and reducing skin aging.”

While this ground-breaking piece of research is sure to pave the way for future studies into anti-aging and youthful cell-regrowth, it’s important to highlight that there is not yet any proven remedy that includes COL17A1 to rejuvenate your skin and leave you looking twenty years younger. It’s clear that consumers want such a product though. The anti-aging industry is predicted to grow by 7.5% between 2016 and 2021. However, experts have advised that until a COL17A1-promoting cream, gel, or serum exists, it’s essential that you continue to take steps to care for your skin and to restore it as much as possible.

Using sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 all over your body will provide your skin’s cells with protection from the sun’s rays. Taking additional steps to avoid UVA and UVB rays is wise too, such as covering up with protective clothing and staying out of the sun. You should also aim to protect the cells within your epidermis with appropriate creams and moisturizers designed for your specific skin type. When used regularly, they keep the skin moist, fill out the area between cells, and promote healthy cell regeneration.

Japanese scientists have already carried out extensive work into the cause of skin cell deterioration and the aging process. And other researchers are sure to follow their lead and use this information to the advantage of consumers looking to stay appearing youthful for as long as possible. But until that day comes, you should ensure you stick to approved methods of skin restoration and protection.