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January 2003

Skin Care Pioneer


The only person to pick up the pieces and carry Dr. Frank's research forward was his assistant Carmen Fusco. Carmen spent many years refining the RNA cream, adding new ingredients, new delivery vehicles and experimenting on patients she saw as a nutritional consultant.

Picking up the pieces

Dr. Frank did not live long enough to carry through his pioneering research. The only person left to pick up the pieces and carry Dr. Frank's research forward was his assistant Carmen Fusco, a former instructor of pharmacology at Cornell University. Carmen spent many years refining the RNA cream, adding new ingredients, new delivery vehicles and experimenting on patients she saw as a nutritional consultant.

By 1983, Carmen had put together an RNA-based cream with additional ingredients such as the natural moisturizer NaPCA. The results with her patients were impressive enough for The Life Extension Foundation to offer the cream to members. This RNA cream was named Rejuvenex®, and it became an immediate success, with Foundation members re-ordering it on a regular basis. The 1983 introduction of Rejuvenex® was the first time this RNA-based cream had ever been made available outside the tightly controlled clinical setting.

Unlike commercial cosmetic companies that almost never change their formulations, Carmen Fusco continued experimenting with Rejuvenex®, adding new skin protecting ingredients when they became available, and testing them on her patients. The result was that Rejuvenex® became a formula that was continually being upgraded to reflect innovative anti-aging research findings.

The first cream to provide alpha hydroxy fruit acid

One way of encouraging new younger cells to form in the lower levels of the epidermis is to clear the way by removing dead obstructive cells and bacteria that dull the surface of the upper layer of the skin.

In the late 1980s, the media reported on the age-reversal properties of glycolic acid, an alpha-hydroxy fruit acid that functioned to slough dead skin cells off the surface so that more youthful appearing fresh cells would be visible. The effects of the topical application of these fruit acids was the disappearance of fine lines and wrinkles and a fresher looking tone to the skin.

Several years before this announcement, Carmen Fusco had added an alpha hydroxy fruit acid (lactic acid) to the formula. Rejuvenex® was thus the first anti-aging cream in history to incorporate an alpha hydroxy fruit acid as an active ingredient.

The research findings about the value of fruit acids helped validate the concept of applying a topical agent to reverse the signs of skin aging.

The cell renewal effect of vitamin A

The damage inflicted by solar radiation was at one time thought to be irreversible. Then a drug company developed a vitamin A analog called Retin-A that demonstrated a partial reversal of photoaging. A well-financed public relations campaign caused the media to focus exclusively on the cell renewal effects of Retin-A, rather than on natural forms of topical vitamin A that could be obtained without a prescription.

Carmen Fusco had previously included a potent dose of retinyl palmitate in Rejuvenex® for the purpose of working with RNA to stimulate epidermal growth factor (EGF), that in turn signals fibroblasts to induce young cells to replace old cells on the surface of the skin.

Retin-A caused significant irritation in many people, and avoidance of sunlight was mandatory for those using it. Despite these side effects, Retin-A became a popular drug prescribed by dermatologists to patients who wanted to improve the appearance of their face.

Later studies indicated that natural vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) had some of the cell renewal properties that were once attributed solely to retinoic acid drugs.

Guarding against solar radiation

Few dermatologists in the past realized that even casual daily exposure to sunlight resulted in severe cumulative damage to skin cells. This was evident by looking at portions of the skin that are never exposed to the sun and comparing them to parts of the body (such as the face) that receive daily sun exposure.

Carman Fusco recognized this problem early on, and incorporated agents to block ultraviolet rays into the very first Rejuvenex® formula. Cosmetic companies were slow to catch on to the need to obstruct the damaging effects of solar radiation, and there are still face creams that claim anti-aging effects, but provide no UV protection.


Quenching free radicals

The skin is on the front line of exposure to damaging free radials. Not only do skin cells have to directly contend with environmental pollutants and UV radiation, but they also suffer from the same oxidative stress as other cells in the aging body. The skin is very vascular, but it is also the outermost organ to receive nutrients. Therefore, it has a relatively limited blood supply, meaning that it does not benefit from orally ingested antioxidants as much as cells in other parts of the body.

Benjamin Frank was a proponent of Denham Harman's free radical theory of aging, and was one of the first physicians to routinely prescribe antioxidant supplements to his patients. Based on research indicating that topically applied antioxidants could protect and improve the appearance of skin, Carmen Fusco incorporated vitamins C and E into early versions of Rejuvenex®. As enhanced delivery systems became available, it became possible to penetrate these antioxidants deeper into the skin. With the new QuSome® delivery vehicle, it is now possible to deliver the optimal forms of vitamins C and E to the lower layers of the skin and delay their release so that the skin can obtain ongoing protection against damaging free radicals.

Vitamin C, however, does more than quench skin-damaging free radicals! It is also required for collagen synthesis, which declines markedly in aging skin. As humans age, they suffer diminished microcapillary circulation within the skin, thereby depriving skin cells of the supply of vitamin C it needs for youthful collagen synthesis. The topical application of vitamin C in a skin-penetrating medium can enhance the availability of vitamin C for collagen production.

Vitamin C regenerates vitamin E in the skin. An antioxidant like vitamin E can only suppress a limited number of free radicals before it runs out of electrons to donate. Vitamin C regenerates vitamin E and enables vitamin E to provide sustained antioxidant protection in the skin's elastin fibers.

Vitamin C also plays a vital role in skin repair. When skin is injured, its vitamin C content is used up rapidly in the scavenging of free radicals, and in synthesizing collagen to speed healing.

Dehydration accelerates skin aging

As we grow older, the outer layer of the skin (the stratum corneum) changes from the smooth, vibrant appearance of youth into the rough, dry, wrinkled appearance of old age. Loss of moisture is one reason why skin loses its elasticity and becomes dry, dull and wrinkled.

There are many moisturizers sold on the market, but unless they contain a proven humectant (an agent that attracts and holds water), they fail to protect against age-related water loss. Moisturizers without humectants are really skin sealers that only temporarily help to prevent the evaporation of the skin's own moisture. They usually contain mineral oil, lanolin and an emulsifier. The failure of these oil-based moisturizers is demonstrated by the dry appearance of skin as soon as the oil is washed off.

One of the natural humectants in young skin is NaPCA (the sodium salt of pyrollidone carboxylic acid). NaPCA functions to naturally draw moisture and holds it in place within the skin. Aged skin is depleted of NaPCA and other humectants needed to retain water.

One of the problems with Dr. Frank's original RNA cream was that it induced a drying effect on the skin. Patients were told to alternate application of the RNA cream with a commercial moisturizer to reduce the drying effect. When Carmen Fusco added NaPCA to Rejuvenex® in 1983, the drying problem went away and patients no longer had to use a moisturizer with the RNA-based Rejuvenex®.

By 1986, an even more potent moisturizer was developed at the University of Missouri by Drs. Stig Friberg and David W. Osborne. This discovery was called Ceraphyl® NGA (glyceridacid) and was the first substance that worked in the cell membrane to keep skin cells plump with moisture like young cells even when moisture levels were low.

The availability of Ceraphyl® NGA was announced at the April 1986 Life Extension Breakthrough Conference in Anaheim, California. Its inclusion in Rejuvenex® resulted in even more pronounced moistening effects.

Unparalleled track record

Over the past 33-years, a lot of creams with purported anti-aging properties have come and gone. The facial cream called Rejuvenex®, on the other hand, has been continually upgraded as new findings appear in the scientific literature. With the advent of the QuSome® delivery system, it is now possible to concentrate alpha lipoic acid, DMAE, RNA, vitamins A, C, E, natural moisturizing factors and other active agents into the deeper layers of the skin.

By encasing the active ingredients using QuSome® technology, Rejuvenex® is now able to provide more alpha hydroxy acid to the skin's surface to slough off older unsightly cells, while simultaneously nourishing and protecting living cells in the dermis and lower epidermis.

Based on newly published findings, there now exists a scientific basis to apply nutrients to the surface of one's skin to help counteract the consequences of aging.

Benjamin Frank would have been proud to see the controversial concepts he long ago espoused on national TV being validated in prestigious journals today. In Dr. Frank's era, he was forced to debate conventional doctors who adamantly insisted that the type of food you ate had nothing to do with your future health prospects.

Carmen Fusco is an Assoc. Professor, maintains a clinical nutritional practice and participates in cancer research as part of an American Health Foundation group. She continues to see many of Dr. Frank's original patients; many who have reached advanced ages in good states of health.