First it was oral care biofilms, now it is skin care. Colgate-Palmolive, through its PCA Skin brand, is sending new research into space this weekend.
NASA and commercial cargo provider Northrop Grumman are targeting this Saturday, Feb. 19, for the launch of the company’s 17th resupply mission to the International Space Station. In the more 8,200 pounds of research, crew supplies, and hardware, Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus is Colgate-Palmolive’s investigation that will leverage the acceleration of skin aging in microgravity to help create and validate an engineered tissue model to serve as a platform for testing potential products to protect aging skin. The study comes from Colgate-Palmolove-owned skin care brand PCA Skin.
Microgravity’s Impact on Skin
Microgravity leads to changes in the human body very similar to aging, but these changes happen much more quickly. The study, Microgravity Effects on Skin Aging and Health (Colgate Skin Aging), uses a 3D model of engineered human skin cells to evaluate cellular and molecular changes in microgravity. These cells may serve as a valid model to rapidly assess products aimed at protecting skin from the aging process.
This study will evaluate the cellular and molecular alterations associated with growth in microgravity, and compares them to those observed during the normal aging process. The goal is to establish a functional model that rapidly assesses skin health management interventions. This novel model system of skin aging is used to investigate the underlying molecular mechanisms that drive skin deterioration commonly seen in elderly populations.
The acquired knowledge from the PCA Skin investigation will help researchers to develop skin treatments. As the largest organ, skin multiple functions, including thermoregulation and sensory function, barrier/protection, and regulatory functions. Thus, any loss of functional or structural stability in skin is a potential source of other health problems as well, say researchers.
“We know from historical data that space travel and lengthy exposure to microgravity have profound effects on the skin. Astronauts in space experience thinning, dry skin that is susceptible to cuts. While these changes are comparable to those observed during the normal aging process on Earth, it appears that they are accelerated in microgravity,” said Lia Arvanitidou, global technology and design vice president for Colgate-Palmolive’s skin health businesses. “Through this exciting endeavor, we’ll be able to gather new data on the skin health biomarkers behind those changes – data which will be available faster than it would be on Earth,” said Arvanitidou.
As microgravity accelerates changes in skin that mimic aging, exposure to it aboard the International Space Station (ISS) is crucial for rapid identification of aging-related alterations in skin physiology and for prediction and mitigation of aging-associated skin problems.
To investigate the effects of microgravity on skin, an in vitro 3D human skin model is exposed to the microgravity environment aboard the ISS. Analyses of molecular markers indicate the level of tissue stress and recovery responses. The microgravity-induced molecular blueprint is compared to that from skin tissues cultured as ground controls. Observed differences in molecular patterns can offer unique insights on the biological pathways involved in normal skin homeostasis and clues on mechanisms of their disruption during aging. These insights will be used to design molecular strategies for skin health management interventions.
Live launch coverage will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website, as well as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and NASA’s App, beginning at 12:15 pm on Feb. 19.
On Monday, Feb. 21, coverage begins at 3 am. The space station’s robotic arm is set to capture Cygnus around 4:35 am.
Members of the public register to attend the launch virtually.