Olomouc scientists develop derivatives that protect skin from harmful radiation

Illustrative photo: Ota Blahoušek
Tuesday 17 April 2018, 23:14 - Text: Martina Šaradínová

Olomouc scientists have developed new substances that can protect human skin from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. They derived the compounds from kinetin – one of the cytokinins – plant hormones that affect cell division. The effects of substances were reported by researchers at Palacký University Olomouc (UP) and the Olomouc workplace of the Institute of Experimental Botany (IEB) of the Czech Academy of Sciences, part of the Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research (CRH), in a study published in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The small molecules could find uses in cosmetics and medicine.

The development of small molecules derived from cytokinins has been a focus of IEB and UP scientists for a long time, and some of these derivatives have already been applied in practice. This time, they focused on kinetin-based substances and, in collaboration with colleagues at the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, examined their effects on human skin cells.

“For the first time, we have found that cytokinins and their derivatives can protect skin cells from the harmful effects of both types of ultraviolet radiation (UVB and UVA). This is new information; scientists have not dealt with this question before. It is also important to find that our substances support the natural defense of skin cells,” said the first author of the paper, Martin Hönig of CRH. The research is concurrently performed within Hönig’s doctoral thesis at the UP Faculty of Science.

Over the past five years, the team has been making various changes in the kinetin molecule and has been monitoring the impact of the structure change on the molecule’s biological activity. Various derivatives were then tested on human skin cells in vitro, i.e. under laboratory conditions. “We first confirmed that the substances are not phototoxic, that they do not become dangerous under UV radiation. We have subsequently shown that they even contribute to protecting skin cells by the modulation of their natural defenses,” said project coordinator Lucie Plíhalová.

Beneficial effects have been also confirmed in vivo. The organism Caenorhabditis elegans was exposed to the action of new derivatives. C. elegans is a soil nematode serving scientists as a model organism for the study of stress and ageing. A number of substances have surprisingly similar effects to mammals when tested on this organism. “We have found that our substances protect the nematode from the oxidative stress that we artificially initiated. It protects not only cells in tissue culture, but also the whole organism against stress,” added Plíhalová. Research has followed up on previous studies and is still being carried out. Currently, researchers are looking more accurately into the mechanism of the action of a series of substances they have developed. The substances have been protected by patent application and a relatively large cosmetics company is now testing a selected derivative for further use in the cosmetics industry.

Contact persons:  

Lucie Plíhalová

Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research

E: lucie.plihalova@upol.cz | M: +420 737 922 365

Martina Šaradínová | press officer
Centre of the Region Haná for Biotechnological and Agricultural Research
E: martina.saradinova@upol.cz | M: +420 773 601 655