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The Key To Eternal Youth? Fibroblasts

By Melissa Schweiger
Posted On Jan 13, 2011

Dermatologists have known for years that collagen, hyaluronic acid and elastin decline as we age. While many products have been convincingly shown to increase the synthesis of collagen (retinoids, vitamin C and glycolic acid), elastin production is more elusive. Elastin is of particular interest because loss of it is responsible for sagging skin and may play a role in the formation of stretch marks.

Both collagen and elastin are made by fibroblasts. While we may stop producing elastin as soon as post-puberty, researchers have found that electric stimulation of fibroblasts can promote continued synthesis of collagen and elastin.

The existence and importance of bioelectricity in human bodies isn’t a new concept. In the 1800s, it was Emil du Bois-Reymond, a German physician and physiologist, who conceptualized the electric phenomena presented by living things. What we know today is that there is an electrical gradient on the skin and it transmits to neighboring cells. Researchers continue to she’d light on the role of bioelectricity in skin health, including anti-aging therapies.

As a result of decades of research, Johnson & Johnson has recently launched several new products (including the Roc Brilliance line offering day, night and eye serums and creams) that are said to harness electrical currents to stimulate fibroblasts into synthesizing collagen and elastin. These products contain zinc and copper in a grayish cream that is applied to the skin. Zinc and copper exchange an electron purportedly generating a 10 Microampcharge, which is believed to activate fibroblasts into producing collagen and elastin. Application of the grayish substance is followed by use of a moisturizer. The water in the moisturizer in turn activates the “zinc copper battery,” thus creating the charge. (Don’t worry—you can’t feel it!)

In essence, the theory behind these new products is that the topical delivery of energized zinc and copper stimulates the skin’s electrical cues that coax the fibroblast into producing collagen and elastin. The exciting part? This may lead to dermal changes and skin tightening that rejuvenate the skin.