The use of gene arrays and corresponding connectivity mapping (Cmap) to identify novel anti-ageing ingredients

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2015 Oct;37 Suppl 1:9-14. doi: 10.1111/ics.12251.


Objective: The need for effective 'anti-ageing' treatments, in particular for the management of photodamaged skin, prompted us to develop a novel method to identify new active ingredients. The model utilized a gene profiling study with corresponding connectivity mapping (Cmap) to identify novel anti-ageing compounds using all-trans retinoic acid (RA) as the lead compound due to its beneficial effect on photodamaged skin and skin firmness.

Method: A vehicle-controlled clinical study including nine healthy Caucasian female volunteers aged 57 ± 7 (mean ± SEM) exhibiting photodamage on their lower outer forearms was conducted. The volunteers applied RA once daily on photodamaged skin for 7 days, and biopsies were subjected to Affymetrix gene arrays. Connectivity mapping (Cmap), examining hundreds of gene expression profiles, was run on the gene signature of RA-treated photodamaged skin to identify small bioactive compounds.

Results: Affymetrix gene array identified 19 genes significantly differentially expressed after application of RA. Corresponding Cmap analysis revealed six natural bioactive compounds including N-acetyl aspartic acid (A-A-A) showing similar activity to RA on the differentially expressed genes identified.

Conclusion: Based on RA mimicking gene array activity, potential use within skincare on molecular size, safety assessment and sourcing, we identified the natural amino acid, A-A-A as a potential candidate to treat ageing skin.

Keywords: acetyl aspartic acid (A-A-A); connectivity mapping (Cmap); gene array; retinoic acid; retinoids.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aspartic Acid / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Skin Aging / drug effects*
  • Tretinoin / pharmacology


  • Pharmaceutical Vehicles
  • Aspartic Acid
  • Tretinoin