Restylane, a popular cosmetic treatment for temporarily plumping out wrinkles, actually makes the skin produce more collagen, the natural stuff that makes skin look young, researchers said Monday.
That means the product, which millions of people have had injected around their lips, cheeks and foreheads, has effects beyond even what its manufacturers claim, the team at the University of Michigan Health System reported.
The researchers tested Restylane, marketed by Q-Med AB of Uppsala, Sweden and Medicis Pharmaceutical Corp. It and rival products use hyaluronic acid, which holds onto water in the skin.
“Everybody had thought that the whole story with this stuff is that you inject it and because of its volume-filling nature that ... it would go in and fill up whatever defect is there and that is why it made people look better,” dermatologist Dr. John Voorhees, who led the study, said in a telephone intervew.
“What we are saying here is ... that in addition to the space-filling concept, is it forcing your body to make its own collagen.”
That could mean regular injections could have long-lasting effects, Voorhees said. “The half-life of collagen is 15 years. It is going to last a whole lot longer than what a whole lot of people are thinking.”
In the February issue of Archives of Dermatology, Voorhees and colleagues wrote that Restylane’s plumping action stretches the fibroblasts, the cells in the skin that make collagen, and prompts them to make more of it.
It also may interfere with the breakdown of existing collagen.
The company did not pay for the experiment and does not know what the report says, the researchers said.
Different fillers, different effects?
Rival Allergan Inc. makes a similar dermal filler called Juvederm and privately held BioForm Medical Inc. makes one called Radiesse.
But Voorhees said he did not test them, and their products are different enough that they may have different effects. “The various fillers are not going to be identical,” he said.
Voorhees’ team injected Restylane into the arms of 11 volunteers who had sun damage and were aged 64 to 84. They then cut out little plugs of skin to analyze them.
“A fibroblast is normally spindle-shaped with arms that stretch out. When attached to collagen the way it is supposed to be, it is a stretched fibroblast, and this is what you see in young people,” Voorhees said.
Healthy, stretched fibroblasts also make lots of collagen, which gives young skin its firm appearance, Voorhees said.
“In both photoaging (caused by the sun) and natural aging the fibroblasts are basically collapsed and sitting in a sea of broken collagen. We said to ourselves maybe if we could figure out a way to re-stretch those collapsed fibroblasts, maybe we could find a way to make those cells act young again.”
The looked at Restylane, which had been used safely for years, and found what they were looking for when they looked at the plugs of skin taken from the volunteers.
“They made a lot more collagen and the fibroblasts were stretched,” Voorhees said.
The search is on now to find out what causes the change in the cell. Understanding this could help scientists find a way to regenerate many types of cells, not only skin cells.
“The stretch must be signalling the nucleus of the cell to turn on collagen. The question is what is being turned on,” Voorhees said.