Researchers Find Key Enzyme for Healthy Skin and Hair

Scientists from Gladstone Institutes of Cardiovascular Disease have isolated an enzyme responsible for the synthesis of Vitamin A, essential for healthy skin and hair.

Researchers found that genetically removing the enzyme, DGAT1 results in hair loss and sensitivity of the skin to retinol in the mice studied. When they removed dietary sources of retinol, the process was reversed.

Robert V. Farese, Jr. who led the study says,” For some time, we have been studying the enzymes that make triglycerides. We found that one of these enzymes is a major regulator of retinoic acid actions in the skin.”

The researchers say DGAT1 is important for regulating the synthesis of retinol (Vitamin A) to retinoic acid.

Vitamin A can be toxic when excess amounts are stored in the body. Vitamin A or retinol is used to treat acne, psoriasis, skin cancers and other skin disorders, but its use must be carefully regulated.

The study showed that DGAT1 regulates the storage of retinol in the body. When the researchers deprived the mice of dietary retinol, they were able to prevent hair loss. DGAT1 seems to render retinol inert. Without DGAT1, excess retinol converted to retinoic acid, raising levels of retinoic acid in the skin, causing hair loss.

Mice that lack DGAT1 are resistant to obesity from excess food intake, sensitive to insulin and leptin, and have skin and mammary gland abnormalities, characteristics that the researchers find interesting.

Author of the study, Michelle Shih says, “These findings may have implications for the treatment of human skin or hair disorders.” Without DGAT1, retinol can be converted to retinoic acid. With DGAT1, retinol is stored in an inactive form.

The study results led the researchers to conclude that DGAT1 may be an important enzyme that regulates conversion of Vitamin A to retinoic acid.