Brown Algae: Unlocking the fountain of youth

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By Milthon Lujan

potencial macroalgas antienvejecimiento 1

Across the globe, the cultivation of algae is rapidly expanding for the commercial production of food, pharmaceuticals, materials, agricultural supplements, and ecosystem restoration.

Scientists from Flinders University, Kasetsart University, and the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA) have discovered that brown algae from Southern Australia possess anti-aging properties, significantly boosting collagen levels in the skin and protecting against the degradation of both collagen and elastin.

The study assessed the anti-aging qualities of extracts from three marine algae found in Southern Australia (Ecklonia radiata, Cystophora moniliformis, and Cystophora siliquosa), which were harvested from freshly deposited seaweed at Rivoli Bay Beachport.

Delaying the effects of aging

“We found that extracts from Southern Australian brown algae have enormous potential to help delay the effects of aging on our skin,” says Professor Wei Zhang from the Faculty of Medicine and Public Health.

“Collagen acts as a basic component of bones, teeth, muscles, skin, joints, and connective tissue, while elastin provides the skin with elasticity and strength. Both proteins are widely promoted by the beauty industry as essential for healthy-looking skin,” he says.

Combating glycation

The initial focus of the study was to investigate the ability of algae extracts to inhibit glycation. Glycation is a key process in skin aging, and its inhibition is essential for maintaining youthful and healthy skin. Algae extracts underwent in vitro testing using non-cellular models involving bovine serum and glucose, as well as methylglyoxal (MGO).

Professor Zhang explains that the Flinders team discovered that extracts from Southern Australian brown algae not only stimulated collagen growth but also inhibited a process called glycation, which leads to the degradation of collagen and elastin.

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“Until now, antiglycation agents have not been potent enough to have a significant impact on anti-aging, so our discovery is truly exciting as we can see the potential to develop stronger antiglycation extracts from brown algae.”

The results revealed that extracts from Ecklonia radiata showed mild toxicity, although much lower than the positive controls used in the study, aminoguanidine (AG) and phloroglucinol (PG). On the other hand, extracts from Cystophora moniliformis (CM) and Cystophora siliquosa (CS) demonstrated a remarkable capacity to inhibit glycation, with an effectiveness of approximately 65% to 90%, compared to AG and PG, which achieved an inhibition of 15% to 40%.

Stimulation of collagen and elastin

In addition to their ability to inhibit glycation, the study reports that extracts from CM and CS were also subjected to tests assessing their ability to stimulate collagen and elastin levels in human skin fibroblast cells. Collagen is an essential protein for skin elasticity and firmness, while elastin provides the skin with its resilience.

The results were remarkable. Extracts from Cystophora moniliformis (CM) and Cystophora siliquosa (CS) significantly increased collagen levels in human skin fibroblast cells by approximately 16.5 times compared to the control group. Although elastin did not show a significant increase, the stimulation of collagen is a significant achievement in the battle against skin aging.

“Our findings will help fill knowledge gaps and sustainably develop the advancement of brown algae in topical and skin care complementary products. A patent has been filed, and the team is seeking investors and industrial partners to further commercialize this,” says Professor Zhang.

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The potential of Australia

South Australia boasts the highest recorded diversity of marine algae in the world, with approximately 62% of its 1,500 described species being endemic to the region.

“Marine algae are a rich source of multiple bioactive ingredients with potential applications in natural health and skin care products. In Australia, seaweed production is projected to become a $1.5 billion industry with 9,000 jobs by 2040, while simultaneously contributing up to 10% of Australia’s emission reduction targets.”

South Australia has enormous potential to develop a world-class seaweed industry based on its rich algal biodiversity and innovative capacity in marine bioproducts.


The composition of algae extracts was also analyzed. In addition to their high polysaccharide content, it was discovered that Cystophora moniliformis (CM) and Cystophora siliquosa (CS) contained an essential component known as phlorotannin, accounting for 17% to 23% of their composition. This compound may be responsible for the observed anti-aging benefits of these algae.

These exciting findings suggest that extracts from CM and CS have significant potential for use as anti-aging skin supplements, with substantial benefits in inhibiting glycation and stimulating collagen. However, further in vivo studies are needed to confirm and expand upon these promising results.

The authors of the study acknowledge the main financial support from the Charitable Klein Research Institute Ltd. and Flinders University. The biochemical characterization of this work also received financial support from the Office of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation, and the Scientific and Technological Research of Thailand through Kasetsart University’s 2021 University Reinvention Program.

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W. Zhang
Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development
College of Medicine and Public Health, Flinders University
Bedford Park, South Australia 5042
Email: wei.zhang@flinders.edu.au

S. Charoensiddhi
Department of Food Science and Technology
Faculty of Agro-Industry, Kasetsart University
50 Ngamwongwan Road, Ladyao, Chatuchak
Bangkok 10900, Thailand.
Email: suvimol.ch@ku.th

Suvimol Charoensiddhi, Pawadee Methacanon, Peng Su, Wei Zhang. 2023. Anti-skin glycation and collagen level stimulation of brown seaweed extracts and their compositional characteristics, Algal Research, Volume 75, 2023, 103257, ISSN 2211-9264, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.algal.2023.103257.

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