A new skin cream has shown promising results in the treatment of psoriasis and eczema. The cream contains fish enzymes and gelatine and is under development by researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim and the University of Bergen, Norway.
An important ingredient in the product is the enzyme zonase, which is found in fish eggs. The enzyme can break down dead skin cells without harming living cells. Used in the treatment of psoriasis, this cream helps to dead skin to flake off, while stimulating the growth of new cells.
But enzymes need water to function as they should. With typical creams, the moisture evapourates a short time after application to the skin. The challenge for manufacturers is to find a new and better method to bind water to the cream. Dr. Ingvild Haug is a specialist in fish collagen (gelatine)
Collagen from fish is built up completely different from collagen from other animals. Dr. Haug has studied how these special properties can be exploited. For example, fish collagen has the unrivalled ability to bind water within a mixture of water and oil. Before, such mixtures needed to include a stabiliser to keep them from separating. Dr. Haug found a method to use fish collagen to do the job.
With the support of a skin care company, she has used this quality to improve skin cream. The method is patented, and the product is now undergoing clinical testing at the University Hospital in Linköping, Sweden, to ensure the product will perform as expected.
Dr. Haug is working with other application for fish gelatine. This includes finding out if fish gelatine can be used to improve capsules of medicine and food supplements.
This rethinking can provide products that are easier to swallow and that can also hinder regurgitation. Everyone who has taken fish-oil capsules knows what I’m talking about, points out Dr. Haug.
Researchers at the University of Bergen, Norway, were the first to note the properties of zonase early in the 1980s. Investigation has continued since then with Professor Bernt Walther in the lead. The enzyme is found in fish roe and serves to help the fry escape the egg.
As has happened many time before: an accidental discovery in everyday life leads to a new product. The starting point was at a hatchery at a salmon fish farm. All day, workers had their hands in the cold sea water, handling the salmon fry. Usually, such activities would lead to red and chapped skin. But those who worked with the salmon fry had surprisingly soft and supple skin. The Bergen researchers looked into the case and found the enzyme zonase to be the reason.