Fat synthesizing enzyme is key to healthy skin, hair

February 13th, 2009 - 5:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 13 (IANS) Scientists have found that an enzyme associated with the synthesis of fat in the body is also the key to healthy skin and hair.
The enzyme is DGAT1. Mice lacking this enzyme are lean, resistant to diet-induced obesity, more sensitive to insulin and leptin, and have abnormalities in mammary gland development and skin.

When Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) researchers used genetic engineering to delete the enzyme in mice, they found its absence caused levels of retinoic acid (RA) to be greatly increased in skin, resulting in hair loss.

“For some time, we have been studying the enzymes that make triglycerides,” said Robert V. Farese, Jr, senior investigator and co-author of the study. “We found that one of these enzymes is a major regulator of retinoic acid actions in the skin.”

RA, which comes from vitamin A (retinol) has been used to treat skin disorders, such as acne and psoriasis, and certain cancers, but it is fairly toxic and must be carefully controlled.

In mice without DGAT1, the skin was very sensitive to retinol. The loss of DGAT1 also caused alopecia, or hair loss. Both of these effects could be prevented by depriving the mice of a source of retinol in their diet, said a GICD release.

It turns out that DGAT1 can convert retinol to a relatively inert storage form. Without DGAT1, this ability is lost, and any excess retinol in the skin can be converted to RA.

Their findings were reported in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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