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Genomics—Advanced Tools to Combat Aging

By: Steve Herman
Posted: June 3, 2010, from the June 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were?” —Satchel Paige

Cosmetic chemists obviously use chemistry to formulate products, but the products themselves are directed at human skin where biology, biochemistry and genetics reign. And as the market for cosmeceuticals continues to expand at a healthy pace, the only way to understand how and if these products work is to delve ever deeper into the science of aging and the available tools to combat the ravages of time.

Decoding the human genome was one of the greatest scientific advances of recent times, and applications to medicine and drug discovery followed immediately. Almost as quickly, the beauty industry was investigating ways to apply the new science to skin care products. Research labs, raw material suppliers and brand owners have all played important roles in bringing genomic knowledge to the cosmetic counter.

Background

The basic mechanism of DNA was discovered by Watson and Crick in 1953,1 and the Central Dogma of molecular biology was proposed by Crick in a classic 1970 paper in Nature.2 The essence is that DNA can copy itself and transfer information to mRNA, and the mRNA information can be used to make proteins. Genes are the functional areas of DNA and control only one specific task. Other than water, humans are mostly protein. After the genome was elucidated, the first wave of research focused on proteomes—all the proteins expressed by a genome, cell, tissue or organism.

Another area of investigation is the metabolome, which is the complete set of metabolites such as hormones and other signaling molecules found within a biological sample.