Gene Genies of Skincare

UV radiation from the sun, smoking, pollution and the natural ageing process are just some of the factors that can cause the DNA to become damaged, which shows up in the form of skin discolouration, lines, wrinkles and sagging, even skin cancer.

DNA repair enzymes have been incorporated in advanced skincare formulations for at least a couple of years, but expect there to be more emphasis on same in 2016.

“The 2015 Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded to three pioneering scientists for their studies in DNA repair represents a major development in the science of anti-ageing,” says Advanced Cosmeceuticals CEO Catherine Biedermann.

“Leading Beverly Hills cosmetic surgeon, dermatologist and research scientist Dr Ronald Moy’s DNA Renewal skincare range is based on his life’s work dedicated to understanding the impact of photo damage on skin’s health and ageing.

“Though Dr Moy originally developed the range as a means to reverse pre-cancers in patients with severely sun damaged skin, further research also found the DNA repair enzymes used in alliance with growth factors revealed dramatic age-reversing results.

“By introducing an active DNA repair enzyme cream onto the skin you can introduce repair enzymes within the skin that will support the proliferation of new cell turnover and encourage the elimination of DNA damage.”

DNA repair skincare was a hot topic at cosmetic medical and anti-ageing health conferences last year, notably Cosmetex, the Non-Surgical Symposium (NSS) and the Australasian Academy of Anti-Ageing Medicine (A5M) annual confab.

Dr Ronald Moy was a keynote speaker at the NSS and told SPA+CLINIC he was frustrated that the industry wasn’t “getting with the program” fast enough.

“Why are we still talking so much about antioxidants in skincare?” he asked. “Antioxidants of course play an important role but we should be talking way more about ingredients such as growth factors and DNA repair enzymes.”

But now the industry is indeed getting up to speed; fast evolving from fixing surface skin issues to realising it is more beneficial to repair and rebuild the foundations, using active ingredients prompting skin to “behave” properly.

Within each of our trillion cells, there is DNA, providing them with necessary instructions on how to function and is present in the nucleus and mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell).

It is a very vulnerable structure, so the ability to repair the DNA helps reduce premature ageing and skin imperfections.

The expert consensus is that the key ingredients in topical products and treatments fundamental to helping skin regenerate at the DNA level are, as Dr Moy says, repair enzymes and growth factors; also vitamin A derivative retinol, antioxidants (such as vitamins B3, C and E), amino acids and peptides.

Essential to the whole concept is high-SPF sunscreen to slow and prevent further DNA deterioration caused by UV rays.

Most skincare professionals are pretty well versed by now in the roles of retinol, antioxidants, amino acids and peptides in addressing and preventing further skin ageing. Let’s take a look at DNA repair enzymes and growth factors:


The discovery of GFs was so groundbreaking that it won American biochemist Stanley Cohen and his colleague, Italian neurologist Rita Levi-Motalcini, a Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1986.

GFs are already widely used to stimulate cell growth for medical benefits, such as wound repair, tissue regeneration and treatment for ulcers. Now they are revolutionising skincare.

In a nutshell, GFs are proteins that regulate cellular growth, cell turnover and help to heal and repair the skin.

They are secreted by all cell types in the body, binding to receptors on cell surfaces stimulating their function and influencing cell differentiation.

But it is a far cry from the role microbially engineered GF (from plants or bacteria) play in skincare formulations.

They act directly as stimulants over cell division, by either interacting directly with the genes or stimulating the secretion of a cell’s own GFs to achieve the same benefit – but they DO NOT affect DNA sequence.

When the natural production of GF, as well as DNA repair enzymes, is compromised, it contributes to some of the more obvious ageing effects such as dryness, dullness in tone, discolouration and age spots, fine lines and wrinkles and overall loss of radiance and resiliency.

“Growth factors, when formulated in stable, high concentrations have been shown in controlled studies to stimulate neocollagenesis [formation of new collagen], which correlates with clinical improvement in lines and wrinkles, and skin tone and texture,” says US dermatologist Dr Hema Sundarum, who also presented at last year’s NSS.

“These blinded, vehicle-controlled studies were performed on SkinMedica TNS products, which contain physiologically balanced growth factors.”

Aforementioned Dr Ronald Moy and scientific colleagues published a paper last year with the results of a clinical trial re the use of GFs on the vulnerable skin around the eyes, often the first to manifest signs of ageing and damage.

“With age, lower eyelid skin laxity leads to a feature referred to commonly as under- eye bags,” Dr Moy says.

“As a result, we performed a clinical trial [published in April 2015 in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology] using a synthetic, barley-derived GF to investigate its effect on the appearance of under-eye bags in 18 volunteers (13 women, 5 men, mean age 52).

“Subjects applied GF serum to the infraorbital area twice daily for 12 weeks. Sixteen completed the trial. All but two subjects reported improvement at the final visit; improvement being quantified as 76- 100 percent by two subjects, 50-75 percent by three subjects, and 25-49 by nine subjects.

“The ability of GF to increase dermal collagen explains the reduced appearance of under-eye bags in our study. Of note, many of the subjects in our study said they noticed an improvement in infraorbital dark circles.”

Stephanie Sherlock, CEO of medical device and technology distributor Architects of Skin, says their Da Vinci (for skin rejuvenation) and Factor 6 (for hair regrowth) formulas contain dramatically more GF than the body naturally produces.

“The body normally produces 127 ng/ ml worth of GF on its own where there are 10,000-21,000 ng/ml of GF in Avention’s skin and hair serums,” she says.

They are produced using a unique, patented process to grow natural, organic proteins on e-coli and then “fold” them into the shapes of specific growth factors.

“E-coli is a bacteria commonly found on the body and used in pharmaceutical,” says Stephanie. “Medical growth factors are grown with e-coli bacteria, not plant or animal tissue.”

“Da Vinci 21 [the professional use serum] has five growth factors with a concentration of 21,000ng/ml and the molecular size means it can only be delivered through professional treatments during microneedling,” says Stephanie.

“Da Vinci 10 serum has a molecular size that can be absorbed by the skin at home to maintain and boost results, also containing five growth factors with a concentration of 10,000ng/ml.”

Another GF system making a big impact is the autologous (harvested from the body’s own substances) Factor4, a highly concentrated, super-rich plasma which its distributors, Klinic Solutions, say contains four times more growth factors than any brand Blood Rich Injection product.

Depending on the patient’s needs, it is used to treat wrinkles and crepiness in areas of the face, neck, décolletage, back of hands, dark eye circles, stretch marks, scars – with bonus effects of significant reducing in static face lines and tightening of the skin.

“We are seeing some wonderful results in our patients,” says cosmetic physician Dr Christopher Leat, of the Gold Coast’s Envisage clinic.

“Factor4 is generated by taking the patient’s blood in technologically advanced tubing,” he says. “The drawn blood is then incubated for between six and nine hours, exposing is to pyrogenic-free surfaces. This elicits a vigorous and rapid increase in the synthesis of growth factors.

“Following centrifugation [incubated blood is `spun’ at ultra-high speed to separate its components], serum extraction and filtration, the serum is portioned and stored in a freezer at -18°C.

“Because of the incubation period, the serum extracted is more GF-rich than if re- injected into a patient immediately.

“At the patient’s next visit the end product is then applied to the desired treatment area with a micropen. We previously used to do lots of small injections with a hypodermic needle but the consensus now is that microneedling is a far more effective, and less `traumatic’ method.

“This use of tiny needles to create controlled micro-injuries to the skin has the added advantage of regenerating collagen and elastin in its own right. Patients can expect to start seeing results after a couple of weeks from the first treatment. Three or four treatments two to four weeks apart is suggested treatment protocol for the best results.”

As we now will see increasing numbers of formulas released onto the market claiming growth factor technology inclusion it is important to check that ingredients and formulas are safe and that your supplier is registered with NICNAS (National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme).


“DNA repair enzymes are a fairly new concept in skincare,” says Dr Hema Sundarum.

Cells naturally have DNA repair enzymes such as ultrasomes, roxisome, photosomes and telomerase. Some are like the FBI, and are called in for investigation (and repair) of breaks that cut clear through DNA. Others, like police, are called in for local assaults.

DNA skin repair ingredients are usually based on enzymes derived from a variety of sources, including sea plankton and plants.

They work by helping to restore DNA that has been damaged by free radicals (most often caused by sun exposure), pollution and other environmental factors.

One of the advantages of most DNA repair enzyme-based products is that, unlike vitamin A derivatives, which should mostly only be used at night, they do not interact with sunlight and can be used during the day.

In fact, a few sunscreens already include DNA repair ingredients – such as DNA Renewals’ Sheer Defense.

A trademarked DNA Enzyme Complex is core to Elizabeth Arden Pro’s Cellular Recovery Serum.

This ground-breaking professional-only range was developed at the behest of Elizabeth Arden by chemist and cosmeceutical skincare researcher Joe Lewis, famously known for introducing some of the world’s most cutting-edge skincare ingredients including alpha- hydroxy acid (AHA) in 1983, Idebenone in 2004 and CoffeeBerry in 2007.

And so to telomerase …

Award-winning American molecular biologist and research scientist Dr Bill Andrews’ business card says it all: “Cure Ageing or Die Trying”.

More than 20 years and US $33 million has been spent by his biotech company Sierra Sciences unlocking the molecular mechanisms of ageing. It resulted in the launch last year of a revolutionary skincare product – 1Truth Serum – utilising Dr Andrews’ award-winning discovery, the telomerase-activating molecule TAM-818.

Inside the cell nucleus our genes are arranged along twisted, double-stranded molecules of DNA: chromosomes. At the ends of the chromosomes are stretches of DNA called telomeres, which protect genetic data, enable cells to divide, and hold some secrets to how we age and get cancer.

With ageing, telomeres shorten every time a cell divides until they are rendered useless and are unable to support the DNA. This shortening has been shown to have direct correlation with ageing and age- related diseases.

Scientists have known about telomeres since the 1930s, and that they get shorter as we get older since the 1970s.

But it wasn’t until the discovery in the 1990s by Dr Andrews and his team that anyone knew how this shortening might be prevented – indeed, the telomeres potentially re-lengthened; hence generate a reversal of ageing processes in the body.

The discovery was of telomerase, an enzyme that, when switched on in the body, will not only stop telomeres shortening but re-lengthen them. Then Sierra Sciences analysed close to 300,000 synthetic compounds in the search of the strongest telomerase inducers.

In 2013 New Zealand’s Chase Life Extension Foundation approached Dr Andrews to use TAM-818 in skincare.

“Over the years I have been approached by many charlatans wanting to do all sorts of things with my research,” he says. “But what I discovered was a company that wanted to create life-changing products that could be backed up with concrete evidence.

“After formulating 1Truth Serum they then spent hundreds of thousands of dollars getting it independently tested at the world- renowned Abich Laboratories in Italy. Even I was amazed by how good the results were.”


Recommended Articles