Specific genes affect how old we look

Specific genes affect how old we look

MC1R and other factors have a major impact on your perceived age
What makes the big difference, why some people look young and others look much older than they really are? Lifestyle certainly has a big impact, but researchers have now found that youthful looks are also affected by a gene called MC1R.

The researchers at the “Erasmus University Medical Center” found that certain genes influence whether we look young or not when we are older. The so-called MC1R gene therefore has a major impact on how old we look to other people and how young our skin looks. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Current Biology".

There is a connection between a young appearance and our health
The MC1R gene affects our appearance in old age. The gene makes some people appear much older than they really are. Other people still look young and fresh even after years. What exactly the MC1R gene does is still unclear. "It is not responsible for crow's feet and liver spots, but it could affect the structure of the face," the doctors suspect. For example, it is possible that MC1R affects our lip height. According to the doctors, a young appearance can also suggest other factors, because "there is a connection between young appearance and good health," says co-author Manfred Kayser from the Erasmus University Medical Center.

The study examined a total of 4,500 subjects
Earlier research had shown that skin stains and sun-damaged skin are affected by our genes. The MC1R gene is crucial for the production of melanin that "causes the pigmentation of the skin and protects it from the UV radiation of the sun", explain the doctors. The new study specifically looked at the effects of genes on our perceived age. "This determines how old other people think of us," explains co-author David Gunn.

For their investigation, the doctors asked a few subjects to estimate the age of 2,700 Dutch seniors. After that, the scientists checked the DNA sections of people that were estimated to be older than they really were. To confirm their results, the researchers repeated the process with 600 additional senior citizens from the Netherlands and around 1,200 British senior citizens. They found that a variant of MC1R can make people look about two years younger.

Genetics, sun exposure, smoking and dental care all affect perceived age
The MC1R gene is crucial for the production of melanin, which causes the pigmentation of the skin and protects against the UV radiation from the sun. He was previously said to be responsible for red hair and freckles. "But it is also involved in skin DNA repair," the scientists explain. So there is a possibility that this fact also affects our appearance.

Of course, there are other factors that influence our appearance, "such as smoking or the body mass index (BMI)," the doctors add. These were not taken into account in the study. If we learn what exactly happens to the aging skin of people, "we will find ways and means that enable people to look young as long as possible," explains co-author Gunn. However, the perceived age is not only dependent on our genetics. Smoking, sun exposure, and poor care of our teeth make people look older, the expert adds. People may look two years older with a variant of MC1R, and if the person smokes, then they will likely appear older, the doctor says. (as)

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