Oct. 17, 2008 -- The same tiny lights found in electronic billboards and traffic lights might zap away wrinkles and lead to younger-looking skin without the need for cosmetic surgery or Botox, say researchers in Germany.
Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) have been used for more than 40 years to speed wound healing, and they are already being used in skin rejuvenation procedures, but until now, researchers have not understood exactly how they work. Now they do.
The research centered on elastin -- the protein involved in skin elasticity. With age, elastin fibers break down and the skin loses its ability to bounce back.
Researchers Andrei P. Sommer and Dan Zhu of the University of Ulm in Germany have discovered that during aging, water layers surrounding elastin fibers change and affect the elastin fibers. This may contribute to the formation of wrinkles.
The researchers theorized that they could use high-intensity visible light from LEDs to change the molecular structure of the water layer to free up elastin. They used an array of LEDs that gave off 600-720 nanometers of light. To prevent any adverse effects to the cells from the light penetrating the skin, the doses were adjusted to temporarily increase circulation.
After nine weeks of daily treatment, participants had a noticeable reduction in wrinkles. The LED therapy led to rejuvenated, younger-looking, and more resilient skin, according to the researchers.
Because elastin also provides elasticity to the blood vessels, heart, and other structures in the body, the researchers say LEDs might be useful for other therapies, as well. “We are justified in believing that our approach can be easily converted to deep-body rejuvenation programs,” they write in the Nov. 5 issue of the American Chemical Society journal Crystal Growth & Design.