Nanotechnology development spurs new skin rejuvenation products

February 1, 2011

Nanotechnology is putting a new spin on the age-old notion of gold as a skin-aging treatment, as researchers with the University of Missouri pursue a new emollient and dermal filler product that boasts gold as a key ingredient.

National report - Nanotechnology is putting a new spin on the age-old notion of gold as a skin-aging treatment, as researchers with the University of Missouri pursue a new emollient and dermal filler product that boasts gold as a key ingredient.

The product line, dubbed Dermele, is still in the preliminary stage, but the researchers say they have already seen strong enough evidence of skin rejuvenation to take the next step of determining its efficacy in animal studies.

"Both the cream and filler are in the early stages of development, but a benchtop analysis of the products has shown great promise," says Rebecca Rone, a University of Missouri researcher and co-founder of Dermele. "We will be moving into animal models for the injectable dermal filler very soon."

Doris Day, M.D.

Dermatologist Doris Day, M.D., of New York, couldn't comment on the Dermele products until further data becomes available, but she says that for nearly all of the gold-containing skin products currently on the market, there are a host of alternatives backed by far more evidence - that cost far less than gold - that dermatologists can recommend to their patients.

"Going back to ancient times, metals such as copper and silver have been regarded as having some anti-inflammatory or antibiotic properties, but we now have antibiotics and other chemicals and ingredients that do a great job with rejuvenating the skin and helping with skin cell turnover," Dr. Day says.

A wealth of options
A number of lavish-sounding skincare products and treatments that aim to cash in on the cache of gold as a key ingredient are already on the market, ranging from high-priced face creams and moisturizers, such as Oro Gold's 24K Gold Instant Stretching Mask, which is priced at $229, or Chantecaille's Nano Gold Energizing Cream, which sells for $420 for 1.7 ounces at Neiman Marcus.

While few, if any, of the products are backed by solid evidence supporting any true clinical efficacy related to gold, Ms. Rone says the Dermele products would be unique in that the gold nanoparticles would be "functionalized" by being combined with a proprietary mix of undisclosed proteins.

"Dermele's topical cream consists of a base cream and the conjugation of proteins known to reduce signs of aging with the gold nanomaterials to provide an enhanced effect," says Ms. Rone, who is the team leader of the University of Missouri’s Biodesign Research Team.

"There may be products on the market that use some of the same ingredients, but I think our concept is pretty novel in its approach to rejuvenation," she says.

Antioxidant analysis
The topical cream and filler were developed by a group of University of Missouri fellows, including Ms. Rone and a physician, engineer and business analyst who were prompted to look into the potential attributes of gold due to its known antioxidant properties and other factors.

"Gold nanoparticles are known to provide antioxidant effects, which can be useful for a topical skin product, and they are relatively easy to get from a manufacturer," Ms. Rone says.

"We also saw signs that the (functionalized particles) appeared to help make collagen in the skin last longer, so those factors prompted us to conduct the research. We are now working with dermatologists who are recommending which proteins or amino acid ingredients to pursue for the best clinical results,” she says.

One area that has produced some recent intriguing data on benefits of gold nanoparticles is cancer research. A research team that also happened to be based at the University of Missouri recently reported that engineered gold nanoparticles linked to a cancer-specific receptor could be targeted to tumor cells for the detection and treatment of prostate, breast or lung cancers in humans. The research for Dermele, however, was not related to the cancer research, Ms. Rone says.

On the market
Products on the market that have the most data on skin benefits include aloe, soy, vitamin A derivatives such as retinols, vitamin B derivatives, caffeine, and even honey. Patients should be aware, however, that a higher price does not necessarily mean higher quality, as many of the most effective ingredients are available in very affordable products, Dr. Day says.

"Sometimes even drug store brands with these ingredients can have great results, so I tend to start with the simpler products and then work up," she says.

Skin irritation should also be considered with some ingredients, and gold is no exception. In fact, it was given the dubious title of "Skin Allergen of the Year" in 2001 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, making its delivery into the skin in the form of a nanomaterial even more of a concern.

"Making gold a nanoparticle will make it more easily absorbed in the skin, so that could be an issue," Dr. Day says. "And with all of the truly effective competition out there, there will need to be some very strong evidence showing high efficacy and value to justify the cost, and to show low irritation, and I think that all of those things may be difficult to demonstrate."

"There are so many great ingredients and treatments that are very cost-effective in comparison with gold, so it's just not something I would use in skincare or recommend that my patients spend money on," she says.

Disclosures: Ms. Rone is the co-founder of Dermele. Dr. Day reports no relevant financial interests.