Gene de­cides how young we look

China Daily (Canada) - - TOP NEWS - By CHENG YINGQI chengy­ingqi@ chi­

Stick­ing to a healthy diet, work­ing out in a gym, vis­it­ing a laser clinic — how many mea­sures have you tried in or­der to stay beau­ti­ful and young?

New sci­en­tific research has re­vealed, how­ever, that the se­cret­towhysomepeo­plelook younger or older than their ac­tual age lies in their genes.

Research pub­lished by the sci­en­tific jour­nal Cur­rent Bi­ol­ogy onThurs­day re­ported that peo­ple with one form of the MC1R gene, which has been linked to skin health and pig­men­ta­tion, looked two years younger than those with a dif­fer­ent form.

“Peo­ple with the wild-type MC1R — who make up the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion — look younger than peo­ple with ad­if­fer­en­tMC1R­genevari­ant,” said Liu Fan, a co-leader of the study and a pro­fes­sor at the Beijing In­sti­tute of Ge­nomics af­fil­i­ated with the Chi­nese Acad­emy of Sciences.

Sci­en­tists from the Beijing in­sti­tute, Eras­mus Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter Rot­ter­dam in the Nether­lands, con­sumer goods­giantUnileveran­dother research cen­ters jointly con­ducted the study on the ge­net­ics of per­ceived age.

In the study, re­searchers showed high-res­o­lu­tion images of more than 4,000 faces to study sub­jects a to­tal of more than 100,000 times to quan­tify howold the faces looked in the eyes of oth­ers.

Then, af­ter an­a­lyz­ing the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the per­ceived age and about 8 mil­lion DNA vari­ants, they iden­ti­fied the MC1R gene as a de­ci­sive fac­tor in per­ceived age.

Pre­vi­ous stud­ies have found that MCR1 is the key gene for hu­man skin’s syn­the­siz­ing of melanin, a de­fi­ciency of which may re­sult in a lower de­fen­sive ca­pac­ity of skin. In the long term, this could lead to more cu­mu­la­tive ul­tra­vi­o­let­dam­age or even the devel­op­ment of skin can­cer. The gene is also in­volved in ox­ida­tive dam­age, DNA re­pair and im­muno­sup­pres­sion — pro­cesses that are rel­e­vant to the ag­ing of skin.

As a re­sult, peo­ple with the non­wild-type MC1R vari­ant, who make up 5 to 10 per­cent ofAsian pop­u­la­tions, around 10 per­cent of Euro­peans and 20 per­cent of res­i­dents in Aus­tralia and Ice­land, look older than their phys­i­cal age due to eas­ier skin dam­age.

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