While to many people genetic research may seem rather intimidating, over the past decade it has become something of a tour de force in the aesthetic and anti-ageing industry. Following the completion of the human genome project in 2003, when the structure of genome and gene was finalised, scientists and researchers have continued to investigate the use of genetics and how this knowledge can be harnessed in everyday life.
One of the people who is at the forefront of using these ideas in aesthetic and anti‑ageing medicine is Professor Elena Baranova, one of Europe’s leading geneticists and founder of Baranova Monaco.
The influence of genes
With a PhD in genetics and medical background in the study of infectious diseases, Professor Baranova has spent 15 years developing programmes based on the analysis of patients’ genetic data to assess how genes can influence appearance, health, metabolism, UV ageing and detox, for example. In this way, preventive methods of medicine, supplement intake, and even ‘beauty’ regimens can then be recommended on an individual basis to each patient.
‘My background in science and research pushed my career to the concept of ‘new genetics’,’ she says. ‘This idea deals with how we are all different, with different susceptibilities to our environment. So, what you eat, drink and do can affect the development of disease in some people, while in others they do not.’
Professor Baranova explains that each gene can be considered as an individual person — they express themselves and have their own activities. The modern vision of ageing is based on this theory and that gene expression gradually decreases as we age, and especially after 40 years of age (though this does depend on the person).
‘This is very interesting at the moment because we can stimulate our gene expression in the most useful ways for each person. For example, people with low detox capacity will often display symptoms of chronic fatigue, but by stimulating certain genes we can increase the function/capacity of detox.’
It is the key markers of genes which enables them to be modified and allows the physician to draw reliable conclusions for certain treatment programmes that Baranova Monaco offers. It is important to note that it is possible to test either the whole human genome or simply some markers important to the patient’s health, and can respond to longevity, ageing and health improvements, following which it is then possible to offer clients recommendations based on the particularities of their genetic data.
Harnessing gene theory
This is essentially how Professor Baranova has harnessed gene theory and research in her business. Indeed, her practical experience and expertise enabled her to develop a unique approach with software that puts together varying pieces of data with regard to genes, gene–gene interactions, and environment–gene interactions, so that she can now suggest the most effective prevention methods to ageing for patients. It sounds simple, but there is a lot more to it.
‘Our genes work differently throughout life, so the same genome type doesn’t always function in the same
way or in the same person,’ Professor Baranova explains.
After a clinical analysis of the genetic data, as well as an in-depth review off the patient’s history and lifestyle, the programme can detect how genes influence health and metabolism for example, in hundreds of different reactions.
‘For health purposes, we don’t need to test the whole genome. We only need to know the activities of the main genetic markers involved in our social environment. They all work together to interact.’
And the beauty of this approach is that it is possible to act at a pre-symptomatic stage — before wrinkles, or before ptosis. For instance, using genomics it is possible to see whether a patient’s collagen is slightly fragile and in need of collagen stimulation, using either radio frequency or vitamin C mesotherapy injections. However, it is possible to look further and see whether certain genes might react to such treatments, causing adverse reactions: ‘The key to this science is prevention; but knowing what to prevent is even more important.’
Prevention is key
While prevention is key to much anti‑ageing medicine, it is often the case that the market is overloaded
with products. It then becomes a question of making the right choice for the right patient.
‘We can help to answer any question with genetics, so it helps to choose topical treatments, specific supplements or a choice of antioxidant for example, but it also guides you in the right direction for more invasive procedures like mesotherapy or collagen stimulation to prevent any wrinkles before they occur. Any personalisation of skin treatment is always very positive.’
The skin is the organ most exposed to the environment so simple things such as season, travel and lifestyle activities can affect our gene expression and how we age; the more we stimulate our genes in a positive way, the healthier and more beautiful our skin will remain — even as we age. And this is something that Professor Baranova believes is a big challenge for the cosmetic industry. Many companies (e.g. Lancôme, L’Oréal) have already begun to provide facial creams based on the stimulation of gene expression, so this is certainly a fast‑paced segment of the industry. But again, this comes back to making the right choice of product or treatment for the right individual.
Voted Woman of the Year in France in 2003, Professor Baranova certainly shows no signs of resting on her laurels, and expects to see a much greater development in this area of aesthetic and anti-ageing medicine.
‘In the aesthetic industry I think there will be the development and creation of a new generation of products in terms of food supplements, linking to how to stimulate our gene expression,’ she says.
‘We are living in a very interesting time of new innovations, and turning to the future to achieve higher quality levels of life and health. There are a lot of changes happening, so we have to live and learn how to use them.’
And it seems that there is one overarching principle for Professor Baranova — to be the best in what she is doing, while continually providing a high quality service.