Personal genetics company ‘23andMe’ recently conducted research into how 'striae distensae' or stretch marks are developed in a bid to identify genetic markers for the skin imperfections and determine why some individuals are more susceptible.
The prevalence of stretch marks is estimated at 50-80 per cent; however the exact causes of them are still widely unknown. Many factors, including excessive skin distension (during pregnancy, growth spurts and rapid weight gain), prolong exposure to cortisol and genetics are thought to play a role.
Currently, popular treatments, including topical creams and laser removal focus on stimulating collagen production to decrease the appearance of stretch marks.
Published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, the study, “Genome-wide association analysis implicates elastic microfibrils in the development of non-syndromic striae distensae ,” looked at 33,930 customers of European descent who responded to a survey, 13,930 of whom reported stretchmarks while the rest (20,862) reported none. Four regions were significantly associated with stretch marks.
According to the scientists, skin biopsies from individuals with stretch marks were found to have demonstrated reduced expression of fibronectin which they reckon supports the hypothesis that variations in the elastic fiber component of the skin extracellular matrix contribute to the development of stretch marks.
This they add, is where they are confident the findings can lead to a better understanding of what type of topical creams would best work in this area for the formulators, and ultimately provide better treatments for consumers in the long run.
“The expression of collagens, elastin, and fibronectin is decreased in striae, which could be linked to the reorganization and overall loss of elastic fibers in skin affected by striae,” says Joyce Tung, director of research for the company.
“Through this first of its kind study, we’ve identified new genetic associations that can provide deeper insights into the root causes of stretch marks, and look forward to continuing research in this space," he adds.
The research team plans to continue the study, investigating the effect of genes associated with obesity and the development of stretch marks. It also plans to replicate the work in a more precisely phenotyped population and look at possible associations in non-European populations.
To see an indepth view of the nature of research the scientists carried out, please see here .