Hyaluronic acid (HA) or sodium hyaluronate is a ubiquitous biopolymer found in connective, epithelial, and neural mammalian tissues. HA is a high molecular weight (1000-3000K Daltons), anionic polysaccharide that is a composed of repeating disaccharide units of d-glucuronic acid and n-acetyl-d-glucosamine. HA is highly hygroscopic and can bind up to 1000 times its weight in water.
The average person has roughly 15 grams of HA in their body of which one-third is replaced every day. HA is also present in the stratum corneum and is believed to play a role in regulating its mechanical properties. The HA content in skin decreases with age, which may contribute to the development of fine lines, wrinkles and other signs of aging.
HA was discovered in 1934 by Karl Meyer in an ophthalmology lab at Columbia University. Meyer discovered that HA in cows' eyes helped the eyes retain their shapes. The substance was very viscous, leading Meyer to suspect that it might have additional therapeutic uses. In the early 1940s, Dr. Endre Balazs, also at Columbia, discovered how to extract and purify HA from rooster combs. Since the 1970's, HA has been injected into the arthritic knees of racehorses to reduce inflammation, and it is used in veterinary eye surgery.
HA was not used on humans until 1980, after Dr. Balazs sold his patents and methods to Pharmacia, the Swedish drug company. That year, Pharmacia introduced Healon, a product used in cataract surgery to protect the cornea while a new lens is installed. In the late 1990s, Synvisc was launched to treat arthritic human knees.
Biomatrix, the first cosmetic grade of HA, was developed by Dr. Balazs in 1981. In 1982, he partnered with Estée Lauder to help develop the first major cosmetic product containing HA called Night Repair®.
HA production based on fermentation using streptococcus zooepidemicus was developed in 1984 by Shiseido (US patent 4801539), and today, virtually all of the HA used in cosmetics is produced this way. In February 2003, the FDA approved Restylane as a non-animal dermal filler to reduce skin wrinkles, followed by Juvederm in 2006.
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HA is normally classified by its MW: high MW >1000K Daltons; low MW, 10K-1000K Daltons; oligo, <10K Daltons, monomeric N acetyl glucosamine. The properties of HA vary significantly depending on its MW and often you can get synergistic benefits by combining HA with different MWs.
Reported skin benefits for HA include:
- High MW HA moisturizes skin and forms viscous solutions with a highly lubricating skin feel.
- A 50K MW HA increases skin elasticity and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
- Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronic Acid moistures skin and maintains skin elasticity better over time vs a non-acetylated grade. It is also claimed to be less sticky and stringy.
- Oligo HA-can penetrate into the Stratum Corneum, also binds moisture better than the high MW grade
- N Acetyl Glucosamine has skin lightening properties, penetrates skin easily, and increases cell turn over. It also has been shown to moisturize skin and improve skin elasticity.
- Oral supplements of HA have been shown to improve skin hydration and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
- A cream containing .2% low MW HA was shown to significantly improve Rosacea.
- Hyaluronic Acid-BT by DSM Nutritional Products is a pure powdered form with a 1.6 million Dalton MW.
- Sodium Hyaluronate (HA-TLM) Freda by Bloomage Freda Biopharm Co., Ltd. is a pure, powdered low MW grade of HA grade with a MW of 10K-1,000 K Daltons
- HyaCare 50 (Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid) by Evonik is a 50K low MW HA.
- Oligo Sodium Hyaluronate (HA-Oligo) Freda (Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid) by Bloomage Freda Biopharm Co., Ltd. is an oligo grade of HA with a MW of 10K Daltons.
- Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronic Acid (Sodium Acetylated Hyaluronate) by Ikeda.
- N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine (Acetyl Glucosamine) by Sandream Enterprises, LLC.
• Ault A, From the Head of a Rooster To a Smiling Face Near You, New York Times, December 23, 2003.
• Svensson B, The magic molecule that has improved the lives of millions.
• Schlesinger TE, Rowland P, Efficacy and Tolerability of Low Molecular Weight Hyaluronic Acid Sodium Salt 0.2% Cream in Rosacea, J Drugs Dermatol. 2013;12(6):664-667.
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