Health Scan: Nanotech delivery system offers new approach to skin disease therapies

When they filter into the body, they may create reactive oxygen species (ROS) – oxygen molecules known as free radicals that can damage and destroy cells, including lipids, proteins and DNA.

A scientist looks through a microscope (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
A scientist looks through a microscope
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Hebrew University of Jerusalem researchers have developed a nanotech-based delivery system that activates the body’s natural defense against free radicals efficiently – a development that could help control a variety of skin pathologies and disorders.
The human skin is constantly exposed to various pollutants, such as ultraviolet rays, radiation and other stressors that exist in our day-to-day environment.
When they filter into the body, they may create reactive oxygen species (ROS) – oxygen molecules known as free radicals that can damage and destroy cells, including lipids, proteins and DNA.
This damage is known as oxidative stress.
In the skin – the largest organ of the body – excessive ROS can lead to various skin conditions, including inflammatory diseases, pigmenting disorders, wrinkles and some types of skin cancer, and it can also affect internal organs. The body is naturally equipped with defense mechanisms such as antioxidants and, more importantly, anti-oxidant enzymes that attack the ROS before they cause damage.
In a review article published in the journal Cosmetics, a Hebrew University doctoral student – working in collaboration with researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology – suggested an innovative way to invigorate the body to produce antioxidant enzymes while maintaining a gentle equilibrium between ROS and their detoxification.
“The approach of using the body’s own defense system is very effective. We showed that activation of the body’s defense system with the aid of a unique delivery system is feasible, and may leverage dermal cure,” said HU researcher Maya Ben-Yehuda Greenwald.
She showed that applying nano-size droplets of microemulsion liquids containing a cellular protective pathway inducer into the skin activates the natural skin defense systems.
“Currently, there are many scientific studies supporting the activation of the body’s defense mechanisms.
However, none of these studies has demonstrated the use of a nanotechnology-based delivery system to do so,” she explained.
“The formula we have created could be used in topical medication for treating skin conditions.
Our formula could be used both as preventive means and for treatment of various skin conditions, such as infections, over-exposure to UV irradiation, inflammatory conditions, and also internal disease,” she said.
While the researchers focused on the skin, the formulation could prove to be effective in enhancing the body’s natural protection against the damaging effects of ROS in other parts of the body, such as inflammation in cardiovascular diseases, heart attack, cancer, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s.
Israeli women who were born here have significantly lower levels of vitamin B12 than their counterparts who were born abroad, according to new research at Ariel University. Prof. Mona Boaz of the nutritional sciences department and Dr. Olga Raz, a leading clinical dietitian, studied more than 2,000 healthy women.
Vitamin B12 is a vital nutrient for creating DNA; it is also very important in producing red blood cells and normal function of nerve cells. Low levels can lead to anemia. Since the vitamin can be found only in meat, fish and poultry, vegetarians and vegans are at high risk for a deficiency of the vitamin.
The recommended level of intake is 2.4 micrograms for those over the age of 14; pregnant women need 2.6 and lactating women 2.8 micrograms daily.
Previous studies have shown that the lack of vitamin B12 exists more in Western populations than in those living in developing nations, but as there is no clear line defining absolute deficiency in all people, there is a need to investigate various populations for the vitamin.
This study looked at 2,000 healthy staffers at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center. Of the total, 73% were born in Israel and 73.6% were women. Vitamin B12 levels were clearly lower in Sabra women compared to those born abroad (most in the former Soviet Union.) Country of origin and gender were independent predictors of deficiency, even when age was taken into account.
The level in Israeli-born women was an average of 44% lower than in the former immigrants. The researchers didn’t give an explanation for this difference.