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Author Topic: Snail slime provides novel treatment for scars, skin blemishes  (Read 2810 times)
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Francis Umeoguaju
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« on: January 01, 2012, 07:03:15 am »


BEFORE now, the slime of the Giant African Land Snail (GALS) also called African land Tiger snail (Achatina achatina) has been employed by traditional medicine practitioners in the treatment of asthma and hypertension.

But a recent study by Spanish and United States researchers has demonstrated that a cream made from extracts of a European and North American snail (Cryptomphalus aspersa or Helix aspersa) can regenerative the skin, thereby providing novel treatment for scars, skin blemishes and skin ageing.
Indeed, a screen for natural products bearing pharmacological properties has yielded a secretion of the snail (gastropod) Cryptomphalus aspersa, also popularly known as escargot, which possesses skin-regenerative properties.

The Gastropoda or gastropods, more commonly known as snails and slugs, are a large taxonomic class within the phylum Mollusca. The small grey snail, Cryptomphalus aspersa also called Helix aspersa, is one of the over 20 edible species of snail found in Europe and North America. Snail meat of these species is known as ‘escargot’ in France; snail meat of Giant African Land Snails (GALS) is sometimes exported from Africa and sold as ‘escargot achantine.’

GALS also called African land Tiger snails, more specifically the species Achatina achatina, Achatina fulica and Achatina marginata. These belong to the family Achatinidae. GALS is called katantawa in Hausa, ejula in Ibo, and ilako or isan in Yoruba.
The report, published in Skin Pharmacology & Physiology, the Journal of the International Society of Pharmacological and Biophysical Research outlines some of the cellular and molecular effects underlying this observation and the secretion’s many benefits for human skin.

The study is titled “Molecular Basis for the regenerative Properties of a Secretion of the Mollusk Cryptomphalus aspersa.”
The researchers from Spain and United States found that the snail slime secretion contains antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) and Glutathione-S-Transferase Activity (GST) activities.

Antioxidants are substances that may protect cells from the damage caused by unstable molecules known as free radicals or reactive oxygen species (ROS). SODs act as antioxidants and protect cellular components from being oxidized by reactive oxygen species.
GST catalyzes the nucleophilic conjugation of glutathione (GSH) with many diverse electrophilic substrates. Glutathione conjugation is a major mechanism of detoxification in mammals and detoxification of at least six major families of herbicides in plants.

“In addition the snail slime stimulates fibroblast proliferation and rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton. Additional mechanisms involved in its regenerative effect include the stimulation of extracellular matrix assembly and the regulation of metalloproteinase activities. Together, these effects provide an array of molecular mechanisms underlying the secretion’s induced cellular regeneration and support its use in regeneration of wounded tissues,” they wrote.

Edible snails that grow in cold regions are the Helix aspersa and Helix pommatia. Those that are popular in tropical areas are the Achatina fulica, Achatina achatina and Archachatina marginata.
It has been shown that skin ageing is the result of a complex process where genetics as well as chronological and environmental factors (particularly ultra violet UV radiation) are involved. Skin aging manifests as wrinkles, diminished structural integrity and impaired wound healing due to alterations in the remodeling process of the extracellular matrix (ECM). Several studies have shown that two of the basic skin components, collagen and elastin, impart strength and their degeneration with the passing of time causes skin to become fragile, and aged in appearance.

Indeed, many factors can affect skin regeneration. Researchers have demonstrated that the presence of pathogens in the lesion may impair regeneration, and other factors such as reactive oxygen species can also play a negative role in this process. In addition, dermal fibroblasts must proliferate and migrate into the injured tissue, covering the lesion and manipulating the ECM (‘matrix remodeling’) to ensure scar formation and promote healing, a process compromised by skin ageing.

The search of substances with regenerative properties has led many pharmaceutical companies to develop extensive search programmes aimed to identify natural products that can induce skin regeneration or stimulate natural regeneration.

In this regard, it has been noted that escargots perceive radiation, retract their orientation organs, and secrete large amounts of mucous substances as a defensive response in order to protect themselves from harmful radiation.
In addition, escargots never suffer from skin infections, which directed researchers attention to the possibility of using this secretion as a possible treatment of skin-compromising diseases.

An early study showed that a secretion from the mollusk Cryptomphalus aspersa induces skin regeneration after wound healing impairment from acute radiodermatitis. However, the molecular basis underlying this effect were unknown.
The researches responsible for this report evaluated the regenerative properties of the secretion using multiple in vitro approaches. They found that it possesses antioxidant capabilities and induces fibroblast proliferation. A complementary mechanism is provided by the fact that the secretion promotes ECM (Extra Cellular Matrix) assembly, which is essential for wound healing and tissue plasticity.

The researchers wrote: “Finally, the secretion inhibits Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMP) production, which limits the extent of the damage during wounding and scar formation. MMP are naturally produced enzymes that help regulate the skin`s ability to repair itself. Together, these mechanisms contribute to the observed beneficial effects of the snail secretion and support its use in regenerative therapy.”

They added: “Furthermore, application of the secretion twice daily for three months also results in a significant improvement of clinical and histopathological photoageing signs. However, the molecular foundations of the beneficial effect of the secretion remained unknown. The cited report shows in vitro analysis of several possible contributions to the physiological effect of the snail’s secretion. First, it was found that the snail’s secretion bear antioxidant activities as well as free radical scavenging capability.

“The role of oxidation in wound healing is controversial, but there is a clear correlation between enzymatic and non-enzymatic cutaneous antioxidants and its protection from ROS-mediated skin damage induced by UV radiation. Indeed, UV radiation can decrease endogenous antioxidant levels and lead to increased damage. In these cases, antioxidant compounds can modulate abnormal remodeling after trauma or prevent or reverse clinical signs associated with photoaging secondary to ROS.”

Researchers from Michael Okpara University Of Agriculture, Umudike, Abia State have studied the nutrient composition of the flesh of giant African land snail (Achatina achatina).
The proximate analysis revealed that the snail sample is a high protein source but low in fat. The analysis for the mineral composition revealed that it has reasonable values of calcium, potassium and sodium. The essential elements such as phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc were also detected. The calcium/phosphorous (Ca/P) ratio (4.18) is very good. However, the sodium/potassium (Na/K) ratio (1.68) gives room for much concern and especially in the diets of people who are prone to high blood pressure.

Analysis for the vitamin composition revealed that it has appreciable values of vitamin A, riboflavin and niacin. The snail meat is a high protein source and can serve as a suitable substitute for beef and chicken meats, as well as fish, in providing essential nutrients for good health
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