University Professors Discovers Enzyme Associated With Aging

The wide variety of products and procedures dedicated to creating younger-looking skin are part of a multi-million dollar industry, backed by numerous studies and manned by some of the foremost medical professionals in the world. However, sometimes the most exciting developments in the field aren’t discovered over the course of this research; instead, they are discovered coincidentally by scientists studying entirely different subjects. This is exactly what happened to a professor at the University of British Columbia, whose chance discovery could lead to a drug that would help skin defy aging.

In the early 2000s, David Granville was researching the effect of aging and blood vessel health on atherosclerosis, a condition that causes heart attacks and strokes. A professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at UCB, he decided to test the impact of a serine protease called Granzyme-B (GzmB) on this artery disease. This substance has been linked to the development of a number of autoimmune conditions and heart problems. However, over the course of his work, Granville also noticed that the mice in his study with GzmB looked older, while those without the component had healthier, younger-looking skin.

According to Granville, sunlight causes 80 to 90% of aging in the skin. GzmB, in turn, has been shown to be induced in skin cells exposed to ultraviolet light. Seeing a potential connection to aging in the skin, his research team collaborated with a group of biological engineering experts to develop a solar-simulated light box, which used bulbs that mimicked the ratios of ultraviolet radiation found in sunlight. After exposing mice to low levels of light three times a week for 20 weeks, they examined the animals’ skin. The mice with GzmB were found to have a significant difference in wrinkling when compared to those without the substance.

Granville says skin aging is caused by a decrease in the quality of its collagen. Many cosmetic products attempt to resolve this by introducing more collagen, a process he says is ultimately fruitless, as the skin requires other proteins and components to institute this collagen. In contrast, his discovery could potentially be used to create a drug that could block the aging enzyme entirely.

In 2008, Granville created viDA Therapeutics, Inc. to create this treatment. According to his research, he believes it is possible to prevent the degradation and loss of organization in collagen. However, that isn’t all: Granville’s work has also focused on studying how blocking GzmB could strengthen skin and prevent tearing in patients recovering from wounds. While his study of GzmB is far from over, Granville’s accidental discovery has already taken him far.

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