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Acne might help protect against premature skin aging

People with a history of acne are likely to have longer telomeres in their white blood cells, and as a result they might be better protected against premature skin aging, according to scientists at King’s College London.

“For many years dermatologists have identified that the skin of acne [patients] appears to age more slowly than in those who have not experienced any acne in their lifetime. Whilst this has been observed in clinical settings, the cause of this was previously unclear,” said lead author of the study, Dr. Simone Ribero, a dermatologist from the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London, who was quoted in a press release.

For the purpose of this study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the researchers measured the length of white blood cell telomeres in 1,205 twins from the TwinsUK cohort. In that group of patients, the authors indicated that a quarter of the twins reported having experienced acne in their lifetime.

Overall, data showed that the telomere length in those who had acne was significantly longer.

During the study, the researchers also examined gene expression in pre-existing skin biopsies from the same twins to identify possible gene pathways linked to acne. Findings revealed that one gene pathway (the p53 pathway), was found to be less expressed in skin of the participants who had acne.

“Our findings suggest that the cause could be linked to the length of telomeres which appears to be different in acne patients and means their cells may be protected against aging,” said Dr. Ribero. “By looking at skin biopsies, we were able to begin to understand the gene expressions related to this. Further work is required to consider if certain gene pathways may provide a base for useful interventions.”

Longer telomeres are likely to be one factor explaining the protection against premature skin aging in individuals who previously had acne, added Dr. Veronique Bataille, a dermatologist in the Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology at King’s College London.

“Another important pathway, related to the p53 gene, is also relevant when we looked at gene expression in the skin of acne twins compared to twin controls,” said Dr. Bataille, senior author of the paper.

Limitations of the study include an entirely female twin cohort and it also did not identify a causal relationship. The study also primarily used self-reporting of acne severity and treatment, the authors acknowledged.

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