May 30 (UPI) -- University of Maryland researchers have identified a common, inexpensive and safe antioxidant that may help slow the aging process in human skin.
The chemical antioxidant known as methylene blue showed the potential to slow or reverse several signs of aging when tested on cultured human skin cells and simulated skin tissue.
Researchers tested methylene blue on skin cells from healthy middle-aged donors and people diagnosed with progeria, which is a rare genetic disease that accelerates the normal aging process, over a four-week period.
Researchers also tested three other antioxidants; N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, or NAC, MitoQ and MitoTEMPO, or mTEM.
Methylene blue performed better than the three other antioxidants at improving many age-related symptoms in cells from healthy donors and progeria patients.
"Our work suggests that methylene blue could be a powerful antioxidant for use in skin care products," Kan Cao, associate professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at UMD, said in a press release. "The effects we are seeing are not temporary. Methylene blue appears to make fundamental, long-term changes to skin cells."
Researchers also tested methylene blue on fibroblasts from older donors age 80 and older for a period of four weeks and found that the cells from older donors had a range of improvements including decreased expression of two genes used as indicators of cellular aging, senescence-associated beta-galactosidase and p16.
"I was encouraged and excited to see skin fibroblasts, derived from individuals more than 80 years old, grow much better in methylene blue-containing medium with reduced cellular senescence markers," Zheng-Mei Xiong, assistant research professor of cell biology and molecular genetics at UMD, said. "Methylene blue demonstrates a great potential to delay skin aging for all ages."
Researchers also used simulated human skin in a 3D-model of living skin cells for more experiments to test the safety of cosmetic creams with methylene blue and the chemical did not cause irritation.
The study was published in Scientific Reports.