With Japan having one the world’s most aging population, there’s no surprise that Japanese scientists be among the most advanced in the comprehension of ageing mechanisms. Cosmetics companies, of course, have a high interest in these issues.
The study , conducted by the Tokyo-based cosmetics giant jointly with Professor Nobuyuki Takakura of the Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, also pointed out that “pine cone extract” could contribute to solve this problem as it has the effect of strengthening and normalizing the lymphatic vessels.
The importance of lymphatic and capillary vessels
Capillary vessels, which supply nutrients and oxygen, and lymphatic vessels, which are indispensable in collecting water and waste products, play important roles in the maintenance of healthy skin. Previous studies have found that impaired blood vessel and lymphatic function is a cause of skin aging. For instance, explains Shiseido, under the effect of ultraviolet rays or aging capillary and lymphatic vessels become slimsy, and this structural change prevents nutrients from spreading into every corner of skin. “In addition, reduced lymphatic function causes prolonged inflammation, which results in wrinkles,” says the company.
So far, “sagging” was attributed to a decrease in collagen fibres or reduced elasticity, accumulation of subcutaneous fat and enlargement of adipocytes. However, the idea of Shiseido and Professor Takakura was that it might be associated to the state of lymphatic vessels.
Actually, Professor Takakura has identified “apelin”  as a novel endogenous factor that enhances the function of lymphatic vessels, and furthermore, he discovered that apelin suppresses the accumulation of subcutaneous fat. Based on these study results, researchers set out to examine in detail the relationship between lymphatic function and accumulation of subcutaneous fat and found that:
fatty acids, which are present in the lymph, can destabilize lymphatic vessels and leak from the vessels,
leaked fatty acids directly promote the differentiation of adipocytes.
Furthermore, it was found that apelin has a function to suppress the leakage of fatty acids from lymphatic vessels.
Precisely, it is in saggy parts that subcutaneous fat accumulates. The study therefore concludes that “sagging” is due to an impaired lymphatic function that leads to an increase and accumulation of subcutaneous fat.
Pine cone extract
In the wake of this discovery, Shiseido, in collaboration with Osaka University, initiated the screening of herbal components that would be able to mimic apelin, i.e. to enhance the lymphatic function and suppress subcutaneous fat accumulation.
“Pine cone extract”, collected from Pinus Sylvestris, which is distributed throughout Europe and Asia, was found to have the same ability to bind to the G protein-coupled receptor APJ, which is expressed in the cell membrane of lymphatic endothelial cells, and stabilizes lymphatic vessels. Tests were conducted for two months with a trial product formulated with cone pine extract and showed a reduction of the nasolabial and facial lines, as well as of neck sagging.