Build a solid foundation in science, formulation and product development—find out more!
Most Popular in:
Sea Cucumber Peptides to Affect Collagen
By: Katie Anderson, Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine
Posted: December 4, 2012, from the December 2012 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
Maurice Elphick, PhD
Sea cucumbers, considered a delicacy in East and Southeast Asia, may not be pleasing to the eye but could be pleasing to the complexion. These slippery creatures belong to the animal group of echinoderms, which possess an adaptive feature called mutable connective tissue. While investigating this phenomenon, Maurice Elphick, PhD, and his research team from Queen Mary University of London’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences not only identified the genes that encode the peptides to make this tissue stiffen and soften, but also have hypothesized that one of these peptides may be used in anti-aging skin care
Stiffening or Softening
Elphick, a zoologist by training, began his work on the Apostichopus japonicus species of sea cucumber by analyzing gene sequences reported by Chinese researchers.1 While the researchers sought ways to replicate the animal for eco-friendly farming, Elphick saw an opportunity to investigate the sea cucumber’s ability to alter its mutable connective tissue. Japanese research2 had identified two peptides that caused stiffening and softening in this species, and he anticipated that analyzing the sequences could lead to the identification of the genes that encode these peptides.
“This phenomenon was discovered in the 1960s, but no one really understands how it works,” said Elphick. “The basic idea is that this collagenous tissue is controlled by the nervous system, which releases a neurotransmitter that stimulates cells in the collagen tissue to release molecules that cause the tissues to go stiff or soft.” He furthered that this mechanism serves echinoderms as a defense mechanism from predators, in addition to allowing them to conserve energy while retaining a stiff posture.
The two peptides previously identified were the pentapeptide NGIWYamide, which causes stiffening of the body wall, and the heptapeptide holokinin (PLGYMFR), which causes softening in the body wall. Elphick searched nearly 30,000 genes in the Chinese report to identify those that encode these two peptides; in addition, he made some novel discoveries.3
“NGIWYamide is actually derived from a protein that has all the characteristics of what you would call a neuropeptide precursor. It is a protein whose job it is to give rise to small peptides that are secreted by the neuron to act as a messenger molecule,” Elphick noted. He already knew this peptide could be found in the nerves of the sea cucumber’s body wall due to previous research using antibodies to the peptide.
From the Sea: Algal Extracts, Macroalgae, Orange Roughy Oil and Beautiful, Healthy Skin
Naturals and Organics in Cosmetics: Trends and Technology book is your bench guide on how to swap products based on animal fat with plant-based, renewable, Green Star rated products. Ingredients derived from plants, marine biology, algae, yeasts, enzymes and bacteria are found in many cosmetic products. The opportunities are limited only by the reach of the imagination. Imagine away!