Wrinkles, lines and bags could be consigned to the past after British scientists worked out why skin cells age.

The breakthrough could pave the way for a new generation of powerful anti-ageing cosmetics, they claim. A team from Newcastle University discovered that an enzyme that plays a crucial role in the energy levels of a skin cell's 'battery' declines with age, causing visible signs such as wrinkles and sagging skin.

Scientists say the findings might also be applied to other parts of the body, with potential for stopping cancer and other age-related diseases.

The study, published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, examined skin samples of 27 donors aged from six to 72.

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Scientists found that activity levels of an enzyme called mitochondrial complex II significantly declined with age.

Professor Mark Birch-Machin, who led the research, said: "This process is easily seen in our skin as increased fine lines, wrinkles and sagging appears. You know the story - or at least your mirror does first thing in the morning."

He added: "Our research means that we now have a specific biomarker, or a target, for developing and screening anti-ageing treatments and cosmetic creams that may counter this decline in bio-energy."

Anti-ageing treatments tailored to different ages and skin colours could also be produced, said Professor Birch-Machin.

- Daily Mail