Walking into any cosmetics store and turning into the skincare aisle, you will see that almost every means includes the reigning heavyweight of anti-aging ingredients: hyaluronic acid. This sugar molecule normally found in the body delivers many benefits, from ironing out wrinkles and bettering skin to protecting the eye and joint health. Now, as discovered by a group of Canadian scientists, it can add revitalizing muscles to its glowy resume. It was found that after muscle damage, hyaluronic acid swoops in and nudges muscle stem cells to make repairs.
Benefits of hyaluronic acid
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance that helps:
- retain moisture in the skin and eyes;
- lubricates the joints;
- heal wounds;
- control inflammation;
- redirect blood flow to damaged tissues.
How does the muscle repair process work?
Scientists already knew that muscle stem cells help out with healing and are critical to muscle regeneration. For the repair procedure, they already learned that stem and immune system cells interact with each other to achieve the result. When a muscle fiber is got hurt, immune cells must enter the tissue immediately and clean the ‘broken site’ before stem cells start repairing themselves. The research showed that the muscle stem cells start repairing once the damage occurred, but the immune cells keep the stem cells in a resting condition while they finish the clean-up activity. After about 35-45 hours, once the clean-up work is done, “an alarming signal” goes off in the muscle stem cells that wakes them up and they start repairing, as reported by an author of the study published in the journal Science.
What is the role of hyaluronic acid in the muscle repair process?
In broken muscles, stem cells act together with immune cells to finish the repair process, yet how they interact to make the successful carrying away of broken tissue prior to making new fibers has remained undiscovered. According to the study author Dr. Jeffrey Dilworth, the ingredient that indicates when stem cells “awaken” is hyaluronic acid which is broadly used in cosmetics. The process of muscle regeneration is the following, as the research showed: after damage, stem cells become generating and coat themselves with hyaluronic acid. Once the layer is thick enough, it makes the muscle stem cells wake up.
Experimenting on the mouse and human tissues, scientists also discovered how muscle stem cells control the generation of hyaluronic acid by applying epigenetic marks on the Has2 gene, a gene involved in hyaluronic acid production. A research associate with Dr. Jeffrey Dilworth, lead author Dr. Kiran Nakka carried out this research as part of his postdoctoral studies. Credit: He noted that aging is connected with continuous inflammation, a decline of muscle strength, and a weakened ability of muscle stem cells to fix broken sites. So the question is now to find a way to boost hyaluronic acid production in the muscle stem cells of senior individuals as it might help with muscle repair. Scientists are currently working to learn if drugs that change the epigenetics of muscle stem cells could be applied to enhance their production of hyaluronic acid.
Changes with age
As a human organism ages, the natural production of hyaluronic acid drops, and the individual has difficulties in renewing damaged tissues. In this scenario, finding ways to boost the natural production of this acid can better the quality of life for seniors. Thus, scientists have now one task to complete: to understand which mechanisms coordinated this association, which could, in the perspective, allow the development of new drugs and therapies.