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Anti-ageing breakthrough - scientists discover a gene of youthful looks

London/Rotterdam: A new study, released yesterday, has uncovered the first genetic evidence explaining the difference between how old we look and how old we are.

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A new study, released yesterday, has uncovered the first genetic evidence explaining the difference between how old we look and how old we are.

Scientists hope that uncovering the secrets of what makes some people appear younger than others will lead to new discoveries to help everybody look younger for longer.

Researchers from Unilever, in conjunction with Erasmus MC University Medical Centre Rotterdam and other partners, made the discovery following a large collaborative study on ageing.

During the project, over 4,000 people were assessed for their youthful appearance in facial photographs, involving over 100,000 assessments of perceived age (how old they looked). The team then examined more than 8 million variants in the DNA of the participants to investigate whether those who looked young for the age carried different variants to those who looked old for their age.

This first-of-its-kind research, published yesterday in the journal Current Biology, discovered that individuals with one form of a gene called MC1R looked two years older than those with a different form.

Unilever senior scientist and study co-leader Dr. David Gunn said:

“This research is tremendously exciting and opens up brand new understanding of why some people maintain a more youthful appearance as they age.

“By learning the ‘secrets’ of those who look young for their age, we can find innovate ways to help everybody keep younger looking for longer in the future.”

“There is more work to be done of course but we are hopeful that this discovery could influence future product development and innovation at Unilever.”

Study co-leader Professor Manfred Kayser from Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam said:

“Discovering this first gene involved in perceived age is important, because it opens the door for identifying more, which we know exist, and we now know are possible to find.”

“Our finding marks another step in understanding aging differences between people and provides new leads to identify the molecular links between perceived age, chronological age, and biological age.”

“The next step is to understand on the molecular level why looking younger implies that you are healthier, eventually allowing to comprehend healthy ageing.”

About Erasmus MC University Medical Centre Rotterdam:

Erasmus MC is the largest University Medical Center in the Netherlands. Our primary goal is a healthy population. Nearly 13,000 employees devote themselves every day to providing outstanding care, facilitating world-class education and conducting pioneering research.

These professionals are instrumental in developing expertise on health and illness. They link the latest scientific insights to practical treatments and prevention measures to provide maximum benefit to patients and to enable healthy people to stay healthy longer. Being visibly better and leading the way in the areas of complex, innovative and acute care by collaborating with others: these are key ambitions at Erasmus MC.

For more information about Erasmus MC, please visit

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