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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
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Perhaps a more novel discovery, Elphick found that the holokinin containing protein was nothing like the NGIWYamide precursor protein, but rather a component of collagen. “I could see that it was part of a collagen protein. This peptide derives from collagen and softens the body wall. This is the first evidence that the collagen itself contains peptides that can soften it,” Elphick added. Understanding which proteins contain the peptide was the first step in understanding how this mutable connective tissue softens and stiffens in the sea cucumber. This discovery has led Elphick and fellow collaborators to continue their work to understand this mechanism, and it will lead them to similar studies with other echinoderms.
Future Research and Skin Care
Currently, Elphick is collaborating with Himadri Gupta, a physicist at Queen Mary, to investigate this tissue from a biomaterials standpoint. “We are studying the phenomenon of mutable connective tissue using starfish instead of the sea cucumber due to cost and availability. We’ve been looking at the properties of this tissue, and we would like to do more experiments to understand how these peptides affect the stiffness of the collagenous tissue,” noted Elphick.
Elphick also has plans to relate the research to mammals, where he believes it may have a large impact. “We know enough about human biology and human collagen to be able to think about ways in which it might be relevant. The peptide that we found in sea cucumber has equivalent peptides that form parts of collagen in humans,” he added. “Maybe those peptides in humans that are similar might be useful to manipulate the stiffness of collagen [cartilage, skin, etc.].
Ephick’s team has long-term plans to take a comparative approach to this research, to see if the similar peptides in humans have the same effects on collagenous tissue. To do this, the team first must secure grants to conduct research with mice or rats. Should these equivalent peptides be able to manipulate the stiffness of collagen in humans, Elphick believes it could be used to treat aging. In addition, the ability to affect collagenous tissues may have a medical benefit to humans. If the team finds therapeutic potential in the peptides, however, Elphick notes that they would be synthesized rather than extracted from animals to remain respectful to the environment.
1. H Du, Z Bao, R Hou, S Want and H Su, et al, Transcriptome sequencing and characterization for the sea cucumber Apostichopus japonicus (Selenka, 1867), PloS one 7:e33311 (2012)
2. R Birenheide et al, Peptides controlling stiffness of connective tissue in sea cucumbers, Biol Bull 194 253–259 (1998)
3. MR Elphick, The protein precursors of peptides that affect the mechanics of connective tissue and/or muscle in the echinoderm Apostichopus japonicus, PloS one 7:e44492 (2012)
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!