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Neuropeptide - Amino Polypeptide Skin Care Comparison

To determine why neuropeptide products are different from other effective antiaging skin care treatments on the market, we first have to determine the difference between neuropeptide and amino polypetide ingredients.

Neuro- and pentapaptides are both peptides but "neuro" refers to the very specific functions of this peptide group, while "penta" merely refers to the size of certain peptide molecules.

"Peptide" seems to be the "IT" word in antiaging skin creams today. We have copper peptides, amino-polypeptides, hexapeptides, pentapeptides and now neuropeptides. And then there are all the variants like acetyl hexapeptide-3 and palmitoyl pentapeptide (a.k.a palmitoyl oligopeptide). The list is virtually endless and very confusing to the non-biochemist. Let me try to help you wade through some of the jargon.

A peptide is simply a small protein which is made up of amino acids. Peptides are active at very small doses, are highly specific and have a very good safety profile when used physiologically ? that is, to assist or change an organism's physical processes. If we take apart some of the peptide labels above, we can begin to discriminate among them.

The use of "amino" in amino-polypeptide is a bit redundant because all peptides are made of amino acids. The "poly" just means this is a peptide of several amino acids. A "hexapeptide" is a chain of exactly six (hexa) amino acids; a pentatpeptide is a chain of five (penta). One chemist working with a palmitoylated five-amino-acid-chain peptide named it "palmitoyl pentapeptide", while another chemist studying the same molecule called it "palmitoyl oligopeptide". This is a legitimate, though less specific, label since "oligo" means "few". And so the confusion grows.

The term "neuropeptide" is a bit more helpful in that it actually describes the function of the peptide. Neuropeptides act as neuromodulators, neurotransmitters, neurohormones, and hormones. Research into neuropeptides has exploded in recent years to the extent that there is a scientific journal named Neuropeptides whose aim is the rapid publication of original research and review articles, dealing with the structure, distribution, actions and functions of peptides in the central and peripheral nervous systems.

What is exciting about neuropeptides is their power and reach. Other neurotransmitters transmit central nervous system signals in one direction and along a path from A to B. Neuropeptides transmit omnidirectionally outward and can even direct transmissions in reverse. As neuromodulators, they can activate and deactivate other neurotransmitters. The scientific mind boggles at the potential.

The names of some of the neuropeptides may be familiar and help you to understand the potential of unlocking the secrets of these peptide molecules. Neuropeptides are grouped into families based on similarities in their amino acid sequences. There are the Tachykinins; the Insulins; the Somatostatins; the Gastrins such as cholecystokinin used to diagnose gallbladder and pancreatic problems; and the Opioids such as the enkephalins ? the body's own opiates or painkillers.

As to how neuropeptides might affect the skin, an abstract in the July/August 2003 Brazilian Annals of Dermatology states: "There is increasing evidence that cutaneous nerve fibers play a modulatory role in a variety of acute and chronic skin processes.

Local interactions between skin cells, skin immune components and neuronal tissues occur specially through neuropeptides ? Neuropeptide-related functions on skin and immune cells, as well ...nerve fibers in cutaneous inflammatory responses, hypersensitivity reactions and dermatoses, namely psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, leprosy and alopecia."

Now that you know that a neuropeptide has a function in the central nervous system and that a pentapeptide might also be a neuropeptide (having five amino acids in its chain) but not all neuropeptides are pentapeptides, how can you decide whether to pay the extra money for the exciting new neuropeptide creams? You want some evidence that they are sufficiently more effective to justify the higher price, right?

In sorting through all the peptides currently touted for antiaging skin care, I decided they can be placed into one of three groups depending on the amount and quality on the published research and development behind their use in skin care.

Some peptides have a lot of published scientific research behind them. They were developed for medical use and because of their success, found their way into antiaging cosmeceuticals. Copper peptide falls into this group since it has been studied and employed in wound healing since the 1970s. Palmitoyl pentapeptide also falls into this group. Doctors were already prescribing Strivectin-SD for stretch mark and scar removal when clinical studies of its superior wrinkle-reducing properties were presented at the 20th World Congress of Dermatology in 2002.

Other peptides have been developed within the cosmetic industry and quickly brought to market. The companies are careful to make no medical claims in order to avoid the lengthy FDA review process for a drug. Argiriline, a.k.a. acetyl hexapeptide-3, falls into this group. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that, similar to Botox, it reduces a muscle's ability to tense and form deep lines of expression. Customer reviews are quite positive and more companies are incorporating the ingredient into their treatment lines.

In the third group are peptides that are very new or are proprietary and not widely available. Dr. Nicholas Perricone's neuropeptide creams fall into this category. His neuropeptide variants all contain the prefix "CL". No research labs I could locate are studying or making the CL variants. Of course, as we saw above in the case of palmitoyl pentatpeptide, he may have just given an already known neuropeptide a different name.

The consumer has little to go on except Dr. Perricone's word. That is, unless you consider his track record and broad following. He hasn't yet failed to deliver. His previous antiaging developments have met with broad acclaim and his three books have been on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Dr. Perricone explains his work with neuropeptides in his third book "The Perricone Promise" thus. "In 'The Wrinkle Cure' and 'The Perricone Prescription', I introduced a major theme of my research: the Inflammation-Disease-Aging Connection. Because inflammation is a great contributor to accelerated aging, it has been an important focus of my ongoing scientific research. And we now know that neuropeptides and peptides play an important role in mediating inflammation."


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