About three years ago, the blogosphere was abuzz with talk of the new anti-aging medicine, which caught my attention again recently: NF-kB inhibitors. As a result of research published in Genes and Development, it was determined that NF-kB was the transcription factor most associated with mammalian aging. The study, involving researchers from such institutions as Stanford, the University of Illinois and Duke, also showed that inhibiting NF-kB promoted younger looking skin. As Alexander Hoffman, a biochemistry professor at the University of California San Diego told Wired, “[An NF-kB inhibitor] would be the best wrinkle cream ever, because it would actually work.”
Exciting news indeed. Yet how much it is safe to inhibit NF-kB on the skin remains to be seen, which is most likely why drug companies have yet to develop a topical NF-kB inhibitor to treat or prevent signs of aging. (Another reason is the controversial nature of the patent that surrounds an NF-kB inhibitor, the subject of a number of court cases, including Ariad v. Lilly). A number of drugs currently on the market are known to inhibit NF-kB as a side effect, including denosumab (to raise bone mineral density), disulfiram (to treat alcoholism), and olmesartan (to treat high blood pressure). However, as Dr. Hoffman warns, “If you inhibit [NF-kB] too much, you might cause too much rejuvenation and cause cell proliferation…The possibility of causing cancer that way may be there.” Indeed, NF-kB is produced naturally in response to numerous causes of stress, including UV irradiation, gamma-irradiation, topoisomerase poisons, and DNA-breaking, and it remains to be seen how much NF-kB inhibition preserves necessary immunological function, in the skin or otherwise.
There is one thing scientists do know, and that is the fact that there are a number of known antioxidants and treatments able to inhibit NF-kB. A list of known NF-kB inhibitors, from the Gilmore lab at Boston University, cites a number of reputable sources which tout the praises of NF-kB inhibition by everything from alpha-lipoic acid to vitamin C to exercise. While these treatments may not result in as optimized NF-kB inhibition as, say, the directly-targeted, as-to-yet-be-developed drug, many of the listed treatments are available commercially and believed to be safe when taken in recommended amounts.
With that said, your best bet right now is to lead a healthy, low-stress lifestyle. Eat and topically apply antioxidants (found in 2007 to be better than either strategy alone), regularly consult with a dermatologist, and stay on top of the latest in skin care research. Right now, I’m consulting this list of the most beneficial fruits and vegetables (antioxidant-wise) and using products like Revale Skin and retinoids.
Have any thoughts on NF-kB inhibition in your skin care? Let us know in Comments below!