ISLAMABAD – If you are able to protect your skin as a child, you might prevent wrinkles and skin damage later on in life, says a new study.

“The message is to look after your skin when you are a child and teenager to prevent wrinkles and skin damage. Sun protection when you are young sets you on a lifetime of good skin health,” said Michael Kimlin, research professor at Queensland University of Technology AusSun Research lab.

The study found ultra violet (UV) exposure during a person’s first 18 years of life was the most critical for cancer-causing skin damage and skin aging, said Kimlin, the journal Science of the Total Environment reported.

Kimlin said while people aged over 50 had the slowest rate of skin degradation, results indicated that damage still occurred even at that age, so lifetime protection from the sun was important, according to a university statement.

The study used a unique, non-invasive UV camera, which took images of skin damage and aging invisible to the naked eye, to measure the relationship between lifetime sun exposure and skin cancer risk.

Kimlin said the majority of skin damage occurred in the early years of sun exposure, with a much slower increase in damage in subsequent years over the age of 50 years. “We looked at how age impacted on the skin damage we saw and found it’s not a simple one to one relationship,” said Kimlin.

One hundred and eighty people aged 18 to 83 years were imaged with the UV camera and interviewed to determine the level of their sun exposure. The study measured hyperpigmentation of the skin to determine level of damage and wrinkles to indicate skin aging.

Vitamin K2 offers new hope for Parkinson’s patients

A neuroscientist has succeeded in undoing the effect of one of the genetic defects that leads to Parkinson’s using vitamin K2. The achievement of Patrik Verstreken, associated with VIB and KU Leuven, gives hope to Parkinson’s patients. The research was done in collaboration with colleagues from Northern Illinois University (US).

“It appears from our research that administering vitamin K2 could possibly help patients with Parkinson’s. However, more work needs to be done to understand this better,” said Patrik Verstreken. Malfunctioning power plants are at the basis of Parkinson’s.

If we looked at cells as small factories, then mitochondria would be the power plants responsible for supplying the energy for their operation. They generate this energy by transporting electrons. In Parkinson’s patients, the activity of mitochondria and the transport of electrons have been disrupted, resulting in the mitochondria no longer producing sufficient energy for the cell.

This has major consequences as the cells in certain parts of the brain will start dying off, disrupting communication between neurons. The results are the typical symptoms of Parkinson’s: lack of movement (akinesia), tremors and muscle stiffness.

The exact cause of this neurodegenerative disease is not known. In recent years, however, scientists have been able to describe several genetic defects (mutations) found in Parkinson’s patients, including the so-called PINK1 and Parkin mutations, which both lead to reduced mitochondrial activity. By studying these mutations, scientists hope to unravel the mechanisms underlying the disease process.

Fruit flies (Drosophila) are frequently used in lab experiments because of their short life spans and breeding cycles, among other things. Within two weeks of her emergence, every female is able to produce hundreds of offspring. By genetically modifying fruitflies, scientists can study the function of certain genes and proteins.

Patrik Verstreken and his team used fruitflies with a genetic defect in PINK1 or Parkin that is similar to the one associated with Parkinson’s. They found that the flies with a PINK1 or Parkin mutation lost their ability to fly.

Upon closer examination, they discovered that the mitochondria in these flies were defective, just as in Parkinson’s patients. Because of this they generated less intracellular energy - energy the insects needed to fly.

When the flies were given vitamin K2, the energy production in their mitochondria was restored and the insects’ ability to fly improved.

The researchers were also able to determine that the energy production was restored because the vitamin K2 had improved electron transport in the mitochondria.

This in turn led to improved energy production.

Vitamin K2 plays a role in the energy production of defective mitochondria. Because defective mitochondria are also found in Parkinson’s patients with a PINK1 or Parkin mutation, vitamin K2 potentially offers hope for a new treatment for Parkinson’s.

The discovery will be published on the website of the authorative journal Science.

High-fat diet lowers blood sugar in diabetics

Food with a lot of fat and few carbohydrates may actually benefit type-2 diabetics who are advised to stick to a low-fat diet. The results of a two-year dietary study led by Hans Guldbrand, general practitioner, and Fredrik Nystrom, professor of internal medicine at the Linkoping University, Sweden, show that this kind of diet could have a better effect on blood sugar levels and blood lipids.

Diabetes millitus type-2 is a lifelong disease in which there are high-levels of blood sugar (glucose). Diabetes is caused by a problem in the way your body makes or uses insulin. Insulin is needed to move glucose into cells, where it is stored and later used for energy.

In type-2 diabetes, your fat, liver, and muscle cells do not respond correctly to insulin. Consequently, blood sugar does not get into these cells to be stored for energy. Increased fat also makes it harder for your body to use insulin the correct way.

The study is based on 61 patients who were randomised into two groups, where they followed either a low-carbohydrate (high fat) diet or a low-fat diet, the journal Diabetologia reports. In both groups, the participants lost approximately four kg on an average. Besides, a clear improvement in the glycaemic (blood sugar) control was seen in the low-carbohydrate group after six months, according to a Linkoping statement.

Despite the increased fat intake with a larger portion of saturated fatty acids, the HDL or ‘good’ cholesterol content increased on the high-fat diet. In the high-fat diet, 50 percent of the energy came from fat, 20 percent from carbohydrates, and 30 percent from protein. For the low-fat group, the distribution was 30 percent from fat, 55-60 percent from carbohydrates, and 10-15 per cent from protein.

The participants were recruited from two primary health care centres and met for four group meetings during the first year of the study. All 61 participated in the study for the follow-up.

“In contrast to most other studies of this type, we lost no patients at all, which vouches for the good quality of our data,” Guldbrand says.