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'Like Mother, Like Daughter'... But is There Any Truth Behind the Saying?

Nowadays there are a number of European laboratories (notably in Spain and Luxembourg) that can analyse the human genome, with results available in a matter of days. What's the use of these futuristic tests? The idea is to obtain and analyse genetic information stored in our cells in order to slow down the skin ageing process. "Even though legislation concerning preventative genetic therapies remains unclear, such tests are allowed on the condition that they are medically supervised" says Florence Caillol, Business Manager in Nurtigenomics and Microbiology for the Luxembourg-based Laboratoires Réunis. Genetic testing, which requires only a blood or saliva sample taken by a GP, can provide "personalised advice designed to orientate patients towards a lifestyle change or specific therapy", she adds. In addition to DNA samples, patients have to fill in a lengthy questionnaire detailing their lifestyle (smoking, alcohol consumption, fitness), their skin type, the environment in which they live/work, their diet, family medical history... The answers are then matched against their genotype (the genetic make up of their cells). By combining these genetic and lifestyle factors, laboratories can draw up recommendations designed to slow down the ageing process. Such an analysis, for example, can tell if a person is genetically pre-disposed to a faster loss of collagen, the appearance of cellulite or has a potential risk of developing androgenetic alopecia. It can also tell if a patient's epidermis is more sensitive to environmental factors such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH present in tobacco smoke, exhaust fumes and barbecued food) - a factor that could increase the risk of psoriasis or atopic dermatitis.

At the moment these tests are seen as possible indicators of future conditions (rather than concrete proof), the idea being to launch preemptive strikes. So laboratories will give patients both basic advice, such as to eat more vitamin A, C, D and E to boost collagen production, or detailed results, for example to eat foods containing amodin (found in rhubarb) to combat a degradation in collagen caused by inflammatory cytokines or foods rich in L-ergothioneine (mushrooms, beans) to deal with damage caused by oxidative stress.

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