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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Are miracle creams just humbug?

Are miracle creams just humbug? asks Norwegian paper Dagbladet.

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer can be read here in the Norwegian Skeptics' Forum, where a doctor helps us understand how skin works, how aging works and what cream does.

Her claim is that the products the beauty industry sells you basically make you need other products from the industry. Bah humbug!

Recently, I've been seeing ads for shampoo and conditioners that bring shine in Seven Dimensions! What? What? Oh, and then there's Nivea's DNAge beauty cream. Utilizing DNA technology to reduce your wrinkles. I don't think we're quite there yet scientifically. It seems the beauty industry has realized that most people are starting to pick up on the fact that your genes actually to a large degree control how you look. So now, they're squeezing DNA and genetics and biotechnology into every ad they can. Sadly, their claims are still unwarranted. I am aware of technologies that alter DNA expression, but I have never heard of them being used or being effective on skin.

I'll mention one example that is common in DNA expression experiments.
Your DNA is very important to the cell. It therefore needs to be sure that the DNA is not altered during processes. Your DNA is kept inside a nucleus, even though most of the processes that the DNA codes for takes place outside the nucleus. Therefore, shorter stretches are copied at a time, transported out of the nucleus, and used there. This copied DNA utilizes a different chemical structure, but is still very similar, and is called RNA.

Your DNA has two strands that match up. When copying is going on, the two strands separate and one strand is used as a template for the new RNA strand. The copy is then single-stranded. It stays single-stranded and is "read" in single-strand form outside the nucleus. If one produces another single-stranded RNA that is complementary to this strand, one can effectively silence the expression of this gene. You just inject a large (relatively) amount of the matching strand into the cell, and natural chemical processes pairs the strands, so they are not available for reading.

This technology is commonly used in genetic manipulation, but its applications are not limitless. In some cases, this simply doesn't work. It seems that some organisms or cells are able to discern "foreign" RNA, and simply pick it apart before it blocks the use of the target strands.

If the beauty-companies were to attempt to stop aging, I would assume that this method would be the most likely. Any other form of gene-therapy is still not well-developed enough. However, I doubt it would work.

I am tempted to get a batch of this cream, and try to isolate RNA from it. Any form of gene therapy needs to have genes in it. It would be fun to try to find out what genes they are targeting, and how the heck they would do it.

I wish we weren't so afraid of wrinkles. Sure, less wrinkles make you look younger in the face, but there are plenty of other ways to look young and fresh and alive than to cast on a plastic face.

I prefer wrinkly natural smiles over botox-faces any day.

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