Application of hormesis in aging research and interventions is becoming increasingly attractive and successful. The reason for this is the realization that mild stress-induced activation of one or more stress response (SR) pathways, and its consequent stimulation of repair mechanisms, is effective in reducing the age-related accumulation of molecular damage. For example, repeated heat stress-induced synthesis of heat shock proteins has been shown to have a variety of anti-aging effects on growth and other cellular and biochemical characteristics of normal human skin fibroblasts, keratinocytes and endothelial cells undergoing aging in vitro. Therefore, searching for potential hormetins - conditions and compounds eliciting SR-mediated hormesis - is drawing attention of not only the researchers but also the industry involved in developing healthcare products, including nutriceuticals, functional foods and cosmeceuticals. Here we present the example of a skin care cosmetic as one of the first successful product developments incorporating the ideas of hormesis. This was based on the studies to analyse the molecular effects of active ingredients extracted from the roots of the Chinese herb Sanchi (Panax notoginseng) on gene expression at the level of mRNAs and proteins in human skin cells. The results showed that the ginsenosides extracted from Sanchi induced the transcription of stress genes and increased the synthesis of stress proteins, especially the heat shock protein HSP1A1 or Hsp70, in normal human keratinocytes and dermal fibroblasts. Furthermore, this extract also has significant positive effects against facial wrinkles and other symptoms of facial skin aging as tested clinically, which may be due to its hormetic mode of action by stress-induced synthesis of chaperones involved in protein repair and removal of abnormal proteins. Acceptance of such a hormesis-based product by the wider public could be instrumental in the social recognition of the concept of hormesis as the beneficial effects of mild stress of choice, and will encourage the development of novel health care products with physical, nutritional and mental hormetins.
Keywords: anti-aging; hormesis; hormetin; proteasome; stress.