Collagen is the secret ingredient that makes your skin stay radiant and youthful—keeping wrinkles and sagging at bay—but it doesn’t hang around forever. As we grow older, our bodies gradually begin to produce less of it—in fact, after the age of twenty, we produce about 1 percent less collagen in the skin every year. This results in our skin becoming thinner and less resilient with age. Collagen is a protein that occurs naturally in many animals, and which has many uses. Its part of what makes up connective tissues in the body; it adds strength to the bones and the teeth. Cosmetic surgeons have come up with many effective ways to counter the collagen loss we experience year by year—through collagen injections, for instance—but so far, we haven’t been able to figure out a way to control how our collagen expresses itself in our bodies. The sea cucumber has, however, according to researchers in the UK, and it may hold the answer to how we can keep ourselves looking young.
Sea cucumbers and other closely related animals such as sea urchins are able to change the flexibility of the collagen in their bodies—using peptides formed from collagen, they can soften the tissue of their body walls at will. They use this ability to protect themselves from predators, but scientists think that if we can figure out how it works, we may be able to use it to our own benefit. As the lead study author, Maurice Elphick, PhD, says, “if we can find out how peptides cause the body wall of a sea cucumber to quickly become stiff or soft then our research might lead to new ways to keeping skin looking young and healthy.”