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Friday, 23 June 2006 16:29

Cell Science: The Mighty Mitochondria

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SKIN, the largest most complex immune organ of the body, is delicately assembled by millions of independent multifaceted spheres and existing inside these self-contained cells there lives settlements of compatible micro residents cohabiting together in water plasmic freedom. This complicated cellular quilt that protects every inch of the body, shielding against many types of bacterial and viral invaders, has also become the most sought after object of our affection for 21st Century beauty.

Testimonial to this fact, with no end in sight, is the continuing emergence of day spas, skin clinics, skin resorts, surgical aesthetic centers, skin care and the superfluity of equipment technology available to beautify this organ.

Compared to a decade-ago, aestheticians of this new millennium now have a choice of diverse skin care products, treatments, instruments, and machines to incorporate into their therapy and in so doing, increase the health of the skin for optimal beautification results.
Having these choices also brings professional responsibility for the aesthetician to learn more concerning the subject of skin physiology, anatomy and histology reaching beyond the basics to embrace the sciences for which is the very foundation of the skin you treat to stay healthy and beautiful.

To help you acquire the most out of this edutorial, analyze the following points of reference, which will be found throughout the article, while reading along to assist you in answering the final questions.
-Nucleated cells and their value to the skin
-Mitochondria’s power
-Mitochondria’s differentiating characteristics from other organelles of the cell
-ATP value to the cell, skin, body
-Protein molecules and the skin
-Mitochondria and aging
-Reactive Oxygen Species and Free Radicals
-Mitochondrial DNA features
-Mitochondria and Phyto Science for skin care
-Plants and skin cells
-Breathing for mitochondria health
-Oxygen and skin survival
-Balance of pH in the blood for mitochondrial health and long life
-Ultrasound Derma sound mitochondria longevity
-Micro amp treatments and increased mitochondrial ATP power

How much do you really know concerning the “code of the skin”? Are you able to explain to your client in detail what goes on inside this fascinating organ with its bustling cellular residents and why you choose to use specific ingredients to turn back the skin clock? Treat acne? Control pigmentation? Reduce wrinkles?
In the first of several upcoming articles on aesthetic science, I will present the facts in a concise, precise and informative format to elevate the aesthetician’s expertise and knowledge base of the skin. These educational articles are designed for you to acquire better results from your products and machines to beautify this organ and elevate a higher client satisfaction. Higher client satisfaction translates to better client retention, therefore increasing your future business potential.
The tangible skins you treat are comprised of nucleated cells that possess a complex internal organization resembling that of a well-run city and most notably, rely on synchronized activities of specialized departments walled off by membranes and organelle residents. A microscopic tour of some of the more important departments in this cellular city finds a very interesting and extremely key organelle important to the health of skin called the Mitochondria.
Mitochondria are not part of the cell’s original structure but exist inside the skin cell. Mitochondria (singular, mitochondrion) are found in the cytoplasm of every eukaryotic cell. They occur in varying numbers, depending on the cell and its function. Mitochondria contain an outer membrane, crista, inter-membrane space and a matrix and are extremely small (.002-.008 millimeters in length) rice-like shape structures whose details can only be seen with the electron microscope. This organelle comes from mysterious origin that has yet to be solved; however much scientific speculation abounds. It is believed sometime in evolution these micro rice-like structures entered the cell and became an operational, contributing, stable resident.
The Mitochondria is a very important cellular occupant and is the “powerboat” of the cell because it is the “engine” where sugar is broken down to release the energy required for cellular functions. Mitochondria are organelles inside the cell that intake oxygen and nutrients and turn them into carbon dioxide and ATP to power the cell. This is the process of breathing for the cell. Without the mitochondria, life as we know it, would not be possible since only single-cell organisms are able to live without oxygen. Many cells maintain the ability to survive without oxygen, but they do not function normally. Scores of scientists believe that the inability of oxygen to reach the cell in adequate amounts to be processed by the mitochondria, cause a shift in cell respiration to the anaerobic state which can lead to cancer.
The fuel from the mitochondria is named ATP (adenosine triphosphate) and is the chemical energy “currency” of the cell that powers the cell’s metabolic activities. This process is called aerobic respiration. The role of mitochondria is to utilize oxygen in the production of energy. Cells may have hundreds or even thousands of mitochondria depending on the particular cell’s need for power.
Because these organelles are the power generators of the cell, converting oxygen and nutrients into ATP, this “fuel” generates the energy needed for the cell to remain resilient and healthy.
Cells live by the energy derived from these ATP molecules. ATP occurs in a series of complex steps that start with glucose. ATP is produced from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Carbohydrates produce glucose, which the body breaks down into ATP. Glucose from carbohydrates is the major source of production of ATP. This action is the cellular metabolism much like we identify with how body energy functions, to put into simple perspective. Metabolism is also the handling and processing of molecules in the body. The molecules are either synthesized or degraded. Energy is created in the form of chemical energy that the body can use, identified as ATP.
All living cells have mitochondria. Hair cells and outer skin, mainly dead non-nucleated cells, no longer actively produce ATP. These cells should be safely exfoliated from the living skin host with either AHA’s, BHA’s, papain, exfoliant masks, etc. daily to maintain a smooth, vibrant skin surface.
Because we have a plethora of many types of cells, some cells have more mitochondria than others. Fat cells have many mitochondria because they store a lot of energy. Muscle cells also have abundant mitochondria that allow them to respond quickly to the need of performing activities.
ATP production via mitochondria is done by the process of respiration using oxygen in a process that generates energy. This is a very efficient means for using food power to make ATP. One of the benefits of “aerobic exercise” is that it improves your body’s ability to make ATP rapidly using the respiration process. In addition, the mitochondria have other interesting characteristics also involving protein production.
Knowledge of skin incorporates understanding the function of proteins. (These will be discussed in forthcoming articles.) Proteins are abundant in all organisms and are fundamental to life. Proteins are linear heteropolymers of fixed length i.e. a single type of protein always has the same number and composition of monomers, but different proteins have a range of monomer units, from a few tens to approximately a thousand. The monomers are Amino Acids, and there are 20 types, which themselves have a range of chemical properties.
In addition to containing the many proteins needed to control the energy release process, the mitochondria also retains its own DNA used to direct the manufacture of 13 of the proteins needed for its activities.
DNA in the cell is not specific to the nucleus it also resides in the mighty mitochondria. The mitochondrion is different from other organelles because it has its own DNA and reproduces independently of the cell in which it is found. Mitochondrial DNA is circular and has no repair function as found in nuclear DNA.
Because mitochondria can create their own proteins, this allows them to reproduce and form new mitochondria. This evidence suggests that perhaps mitochondria were once separate living organisms that somehow became incorporated into eukaryotic cells. Several studies also suggest that mutations in the protein coding part of mitochondrial DNA can cause various diseases. Mitochondrial DNA can also be used to study different aspects of inheritance and disease. Many university studies, one specifically conducted at the University of California Berkley, indicate decay of the mitochondria organelle is responsible for accelerating the aging process.
This and other studies of the mitochondria organelle have now become a new area of interest in skin care technology for mitochondrial protection and optimization to wage war against the aging process and other cellular injuries including inflammation.
Oxidative damage has been implicated to be a major factor in the decline in physiologic function of the cell that occurs during the aging process. Because mitochondria are a primary site of generation of Reaction Oxygen Species (ROS), they have become a major focus of research in this area. Increased oxidative damage to mitochondrial proteins, lipid and DNA has been reported to occur with age in several tissues in a variety of organisms. Decreased activity of electron transport chain complexes and increased release of reactive oxygen species from the mitochondria with age suggest that alterations in mitochondrial function occur with age as a consequence of increased oxidative damage caused by free radical assault.
There are thousands of research papers describing reactive oxygen species and their free radicals with mitochondrial decay as the primary cause of aging. Free radicals are unstable molecules in the body. Usually molecules contain electrons in pairs. When there is a loss or gain of an electron, this destabilizes the molecule and it becomes highly destructive and destabilizes other molecules leading to oxidation. A free radical, part of the ROS family, prefers to steal electrons from the lipid membrane of a cell, initiating a free radical attack on the cell known as lipid peroxidation. Oxidation is why apples turn brown and your car rusts and eventually falls apart. Over time, the cells in your body literally rust and degenerate due to oxidative stress which makes preventative measures of mitochondrial health all the more important today.
Plant cells contain mitochondria. Plant cells evolve the ability to produce sugar and free oxygen for their survival. They also produce secretions responsible for growth and development called hormones. Each “hormone” is the result of a specific bit of DNA producing the proper protein. This is a main interest in the future of skin care science advancement and development. However, today only a handful of reputable skin care companies focus on the mitochondria and currently provide products to augment and increase mitochondrial health using plant extracts.
Biological phyto-extracts boost the efficacy of skin care formulas and achieve paramount results for the aesthetician treating skin for aging, pigmentation, and acne. The rationale is the skin naturally identifies with organic plant cells that have many of the same organelle-like structures and characteristics as human skin cells such as the mitochondria. Natural plant organics are superior to “man made” chemical ingredients because they contain human identical mitochondria and other important cellular organelles that resemble skin cells. One drop of a plant extract can contain as many as 500 different constituents, an impossibility for bio-engineered ingredients that claim to duplicate a globule from plant life.
One interesting and notable fact is an individual’s mitochondrial is derived mainly from the mother. In most animal species, mitochondria are inherited through the maternal lineage. A sperm carries mitochondria in its tail as an energy source for its long journey to the egg. When it attaches to the egg during fertilization, the tail falls off. Consequently, the only mitochondria the organism gets are from the egg its mother provided. Unlike nuclear DNA, mitochondrial DNA doesn’t get shuffled every generation, so it is presumed to change at a slower rate.
Energy and acidity balance also influence the health of the mitochondria. When the energy is not properly generated in each cell’s mitochondria, the body’s acid-alkaline balance is abnormal. In fact, when the cells are too acidic (extremely common if eating the so-called American Diet) energy is not produced properly in the cells of the body due to lack of oxygen.
As an aesthetician it is always prudent to know the food habits of your client because they are directly tied into the health of their cells, which become the skin you strive to beautify through treatments and home care maintenance products. Imbalances are produced from the foods we eat, particularly from the consumption of hydrogenated oils like margarine and over heated fats like French fries, and other fried foods. Hormones injected into our food sources also are of great concern.
Oxygen and energy is tied to alkalinity. Ideally the body should be slightly alkaline, apart for a few acidic areas such as the acidic fluids in the stomach and colon, as well as the urine, (often acidic when it contains acids from our foods) and saliva (sometimes acidic). Overly acidic bodies mean overly acidic blood. Mildly alkaline body fluids are capable of carrying 20-times as much oxygen as slightly acidic fluids. Therefore, maintaining the proper acid-alkaline balance of the blood and other bodily fluids is critical to energy and health and the more efficiently the body utilizes oxygen.
How can aestheticians channel this knowledge of the mitochondria to obtain optimal results when treating the skin? First, you must surrender to the fact that it is the cell that manages the outcome to your skin treatments and everything you do must be in concert with this center for control.
The CELL is the SOUL of the skin! Obtaining healthy skin can only be achieved with healthy cells and mitochondrial fitness.
Cells of the body (remember the skin is the largest organ of the body) need oxygen. This oxygen must be ingested in our air or food. The lungs allow oxygen from the air to be absorbed into the blood. Before beginning any aesthetic treatment, important to cellular balance is the intake of air. Have your client take at least 10 deep breaths before you start treatment.
Oxygen is transported by the hemoglobin in the blood to the cells of the body. During all this, this precious cargo of oxygen must be protected from free radicals by anti-oxidants. However, if enough oxygen is not available to the cells, it results in an energy crisis. Share this information with your client and as part of their home care; instruct them to take in 10 oxygen deep breaths to feed the mitochondrial furnace of their cells daily. A good practice to maintain Circadian balance is to take a minimum of five MITO breaths in the morning and five in the evening before going to bed. Remember, circadian science states that cells regenerate at night!
To counteract the harmful effects of ROS (reactive oxygen species/free radical families), topical antioxidants extracted from natural sources compatible with skin cells, such as vitamin C (mitochondria) and E (membrane cell protection), ascorbate and tocopherol) as well as lipoic acid, beta carotene, green and white teas, apigenin (chamomile, parsley, basil, sage), quercetin (citrus, apples, parsley, tea, red wine), glutathione and proanthocyanidins exert protective effects against oxidative stress and can intervene at different levels of oxidative processes, e.g. by scavenging free radicals and lipid peroxyl radicals, by binding metal ions or by removing oxidative damage bio-molecules. New technology promises to optimize cellular energy, protect mitochondrial DNA, and extend cell life.
One amazing life extension for the skin cell now only available through professional treatment is ultrasound.
Clinical studies indicate that therapeutic ultrasound produces a combination of non-thermal effects, (acoustic streaming and cavitation) which are difficult to isolate. Acoustic streaming is defined as the physical forces of the sound waves, which provide a driving force capable of displacing ions and small molecules. At the cellular level, organelles (mitochondria and others) and molecules of different molecular weight exist. While many of these structures are stationary, numerous are free floating and may be driven to move around more immobile structures. This mechanical pressure applied by the sound wave produces unidirectional movement of fluid along and around cell membranes and assists in delivering topical antioxidant’s, peptides, etc., that have been micronized via the procedure, directly to the cell.
Biostimulation also causes changes in the Na”/H ratio and increases in the Na”/K-ATPase activity, which in turn has an effect on Ca++ flux. The Ca++ flux affects the level of cyclic nucleotides, which modulate DNA and RNA synthesis, modulating cell proliferation. There may also be an activation of enzymes in the mitochondria (the energy organelle of the cell), which causes a cascade of molecular events leading to the response.
Calcium ions are intracellular messengers in many signal-transuding systems. The intracellular level of calcium must be kept low because phosphate esters are prevalent, and calcium phosphates are very insoluble. Cytosolic level of calcium in unexcited cells is several orders of magnitude less than the extra cellular concentration. Thus, the cytosolic calcium concentration can be abruptly raised for signaling purposes by transiently opening calcium channels in the plasma membrane or in the intracellular membrane.
There is another property of ultrasound, which has important therapeutic implications. There exists a threshold ultrasound energy below which the effect of ultrasound on skin conductivity cannot be detected, and beyond the threshold value, the conductivity increases the energy density. In other words regardless of the intensity, higher than the acoustical condition threshold intensity, exposure time and duty cycle used, the effect of ultrasound on skin permeability is similar if the total energy density delivered to the skin is maintained constant. The threshold energy density for affecting skin permeability is approximately 222 J/cm and may depend on other ultrasonic parameters such as frequency.
The threshold energy value probably reflects the ultrasound energy required to induce minimal structural changes in the skin sufficient to induce a measurable change in skin conductivity. The magnitude of the threshold may depend on the skin itself and may vary between skin types including skin of color.
This information is important and should influence the type of machine selected for your clinic. Ensure your purchase of an ultrasonic machine has scientific substantiation behind it and not antidotal gibberish that could result in a unit that does conform to the technical information presented in this article.
The most important stage of ultrasound is the “micro-amp” treatment that provides small micro amp electrical current to re-establish cellular function, leading to recovery and therefore, a stronger cell to build healthier skin.
The Micro Amp phase (1/millionth of an amp) restores the skin’s natural electric field damaged by the sun, environmental toxins, substandard skin products, injury, noxious matters, surgery, free radical damage, intrinsic aging, etc.
The Micro Amp phase assists in the replenishment of the cellular ATP via the mitochondria, to overcome the cell impedance barrier. By re-establishing homeostasis, Micro Amp therapy permits the transport of nutrients back into the damaged cell, and removal of waste products from the damaged cell. The increase of ATP production also provides the energy that tissues require to build new proteins and collagen. In many medical spas, the Micro Amp therapy is used safely after surgery, for treating acne and Rosacea to encourage healthy skin recovery and faster healing.
Increasing treatment efficacy to ensure cellular health is obtainable by combining state of the science skin care with antioxidants, peptides and plant based constituents, to name a few, in joint partnership with ultrasound. The mitochondria benefits significantly, therefore imparting more energy to the cell leading to younger acting skin.
In conclusion, “what goes around comes around” has never been so “right on” as it is concerning the cell and skin. Preserving mitochondria health and other residents of the cellular city is an important facet in your skin care and the more you understand about the cell and its function, the future outcome of your treatments and home care maintenance will surpass superior!


Review Questions

1. Why is the Mitochondria’s power so important to aesthetics’ today when treating the skin?

2. List several ways you can increase the health of the mitochondria when treating the skin for beautification?

3. Why is ATP so important to the cell, skin, and body?

4. List the main enemies of the mitochondria that accelerate the aging process.

5. Name the primary antioxidants to combat ROS.

6. Why is “Plant Power” so important to the health of the mitochondria?

7. How does ultrasound provide cellular life extension for the skin and increase collagen production?

Christine Heathman, Master Aesthetician, CME, LMT is the Founder and CEO of Glymed Plus. With over 20 years of practicing clinical aesthetics, her experience with the medical profession is well established. As a licensed professional she holds three licenses in aesthetics, one in California, a Master License in Utah and one in Europe. As the Director of Education for the Gly-Med Institute of Skin Sciences in Spanish Fork, Utah, Christine directs and provides the skin care professional with exceptional training. Her dedication to education is well established in the skin care industry and is known on a global basis for exceptional schooling in advanced skin care. For more information, please contact her via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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