Credit for this observation of pseudoscience goes to Rachel, a reader who observed some rather bizarre claims in the Revlon cosmetics employees training guide.
According to Revlon, their "protective telomeric complex [in Eterna 27]... is like a special 'memory' for your skin that continually reminds our skin cells to reproduce and reproduce accurately - helping keep skin looking younger for longer."
It's not clear exactly what this "complex" is. Presumably it is pregnenolone acetate, which they market as "progenitin", an endogenous precursor to a variety of neuroactive molecules including progestagens, glucocorticoids, androgens, and estrogens.
It is worth noting that not only are there no scientific studies indicating that pregnenolone acetate has any effect on wrinkles, there is no evidence that it is even able to penetrate the skin.
So, on to the science! First of all, what are telomeres?
Your DNA, as we all know, is a series of nucleotides that together form the genes and regulatory regions that provide the unique code that makes each organism. Since DNA is double stranded, these nucleotides pair up, making hydrogen-bound base pairs. There is a lot of information that needs to be encoded in an organism's DNA. The human genome has about 3.2 billion base pairs. If that was stretched out linearly, each cell's DNA would be about two meters long. Since your cells are not two meters long, they need to be packaged up more parsimoniously.
Every time your cell divides, you lose a little hunk at the end of your chromosome. When DNA polymerase, the enzyme that replicates DNA, does its job, it can only go in one direction. Your DNA is not symmetrical. We talk about DNA in terms of 5' at one end and 3' at the other. DNA polymerase will only go from 5' to 3' because it needs to act on the 3'-OH of the existing strand to add nucleotides.
DNA replication starts at the center of a DNA strand. One DNA polymerase can go straight through without any problems, because it is traveling from 5' to 3'. This is called the leading strand.
Enzymes come and help change those RNA primers to DNA, connecting the Okazaki fragments. However, in order for this to happen, there must be a DNA strand before the primer. The very last RNA primer does not have that. Thus, it is destroyed. As a result, some of the DNA code is destroyed every time DNA is replicated.
How do telomeres relate to aging?
Some people hypothesize that telemeres are closely related to the aging process. Because a little bit of telomere is lost at each cell division, individuals who are older have shorter telomeres than individuals who are younger. This fact has led some people to hypothesize that the reason that we age is because our telomeres are getting shorter.
|Who knows what is going on with his telomeres. |
Worse still, telomeres have never been proposed as a mechanism associated with wrinkles. Being less likely to die and being less likely to have crow's feet are hardly analogous. The idea that shortened telomeres cause wrinkles is absolutely the textbook example of the adage "correlation does not equal causation". To quote Dr. Ron Rosedale, "The telomere theory as a cause of aging was hotly debated over a decade ago in many biology of aging conferences where university researchers got together to discuss their latest findings. Now, this is barely discussed outside of pseudoscientific circles."
Even if telomere protection was a good anti-aging mechanism, we still wouldn't want to implement it. We actually do have the technology to lengthen telomeres, and we have done so in mice. We don't do it in humans because it is a terrible idea. Introducing enzymes that help protect telomeres dramatically increases one's likelihood of getting cancer. If this process was actually occurring in all of your cells, dying of cancer would be a near certainty.
That makes literally no sense. The "protective telomeric complex" name sounds like they are saying that the product will prevent telomeric shortening, which is problematic for reasons I have already outlined. But telomeres have NOTHING TO DO with causing your skin cells to reproduce (and if you were using a telomere shortening theory of aging, you wouldn't want them to reproduce!), they have NOTHING TO DO with the accuracy of DNA polymerase, and even if they did, that would have NOTHING TO DO with keeping your skin young-looking. This claim is bullshit, plain and simple.
If you have any beauty claims you want researched in future Beauty Bullshit blogs, feel free to leave them in the comments below.