- Daniel Fernandez-Villa
- The Conversation*
Can you imagine an ancestor of ours having a smoothie detox after gorging on a mammoth? Or injecting Botox to look younger than the one in the adjoining cavern? It would have been a sight to see, right?
Now, what if they had Instagram to share it with the rest of the world?
Concern for our physique has evolved with us as if it were another species, but it has not been until our time that constant exposure to that ideal canon has converged, for example, on social networks, and the scientific-technical capacity to achieve it.
In this way, there are already several studies that relate the emergence in our lives of these applications with an increase in concern about our appearance, the number of aesthetic operations performed and, what is really serious, the number of cases of depression due to non-self-acceptance.
Faced with this scenario before us, the hyaluronic acid is presented as a miracle remedy anti aging, but why is it so desired? Does it really work? What other uses can we give it?
Hyaluronic acid: the three keys to your success
Hyaluronic acid is possibly one of the few acids that we would like to throw at our faces.
Its structure has little to do with that of other famous acids, such as hydrochloric. To imagine it, hyaluronic acid would be like a bath sponge cut into the shape of noodles, albeit on a molecular scale.
In this sense, it has a great affinity for water, a property known as hydrophilicity, and is capable of absorbing it and leaving it retained.
This is how the hyaluronic acid that we have in the innermost layers of the skin provides volume and turgor to our factions, due to the pressure generated by this water.
But beware! Keep in mind that the skin is the first protective barrier that we have against the outside and it could be compared to a pasta wringer.
Hyaluronic “noodles” are too big and tangled to get through the tiny pores of “our natural squeegee.”
Therefore, the hyaluronic acid in most anti-aging creams it will remain on the surface, where it will provide hydration and smoothness, but not turgor, for which injections would be necessary or add it in the form of particles small enough to pass through these pores, distinguishing nanoparticles made of this compound, those that carry it on their surface and those that encapsulate it inside.
In addition to the skin, we can find hyaluronic in our joints, where thanks to its mechanical properties it fulfills two very important functions.
On the one hand, in “mild” conditions it behaves like a lubricant.
In this way, when we flex the elbow, the joint fluid accommodates itself to prevent the bones of the arm from rubbing together and causing pain, which is what occurs in osteoarthritis or arthritis.
On the other hand, in “intense” conditions, hyaluronic acid is capable of absorbing shocks.
That’s why our knees don’t hurt when landing after jumping. All this means that it has been prescribed for years in the form of intra-articular injections to relieve the symptoms of these joint diseases.
Finally, hyaluronic is a natural compound that our body produces and eliminates and, therefore, it will not detect as foreign.
Therefore, it is also used to coat medical devices such as catheters or implants that could generate a rejection.
For example, adding small amounts of hyaluronic acid in contact lenses (or contact lenses) not only allows them not to generate inflammation, but also better conserves moisture by capturing water, improving the wearing experience.
What other uses does it have?
In recent years, interest in hyaluronic acid has grown exponentially.
The previous cases are some examples that are already commercialized in our day to day, but what other applications are you working on?
The following two examples are the result of the latest research that we are carrying out in the Biomaterials group of the Higher Council for Scientific Research (of Spain), a group in which I work.
The first is a GPS against cancer.
Targeting anticancer drugs (chemotherapy) specifically against the tumor, and not against the rest of our body, is one of the main lines in the fight against cancer.
To do this, we must make use of the small differences that tumors present with respect to the healthy parts of our body.
For example, in some types of cancer, only a small portion of the tumor is malign, being responsible for metastasis or its uncontrolled multiplication.
And what characterizes this tumor population? Greater adhesion to hyaluronic acid compared to the rest of our cells.
For this reason, nanoparticles such as those mentioned above, coated with this compound, are being loaded with chemotherapeutics to improve the targeting of our treatments.
Thus, the hyaluronic acid would be like a GPS that would guide the vehicle with the medicine inside it directly to the tumor.
The second has to do with mother cells.
The use of stem cells to regenerate damaged tissues is a “fairly” nascent field.
Although clinical trials have already been carried out for different diseases, in many cases it has been proven that these cells are eliminated too quickly and, with them, their effects.
To solve this, in the group we prepare formulations of hyaluronic and chitosan, a similar product found in shrimp shells, which, when put in contact, gel, trapping the cells inside and prolonging their effects.
As we can see, hyaluronic acid is much more than a beauty treatment.
In just 1000 words we have covered from its implications at a psychological level to its possible use at an oncological level, through its application in traumatology or ophthalmology.
What does the future hold for you? How far could it go? The real limit… investment in science.
* Daniel FernAndez-Villa is a pre-doctoral researcher for University Teacher Training (FPU), Institute of Polymer Science and Technology (ICTP – CSIC). This note originally appeared on The Conversation and is published here under a Creative Commons license. You can read its versionfrom the original here.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.