How often do you moisturize your skin? Every day? Once a month? Well researchers at Northwestern University in Chicago have given a moisturizer the ability to perform RNA interference and regulate genes.

Topical treatments are common for skin cancers like melanoma, as they can be applied directly to the affected cells. But our skin is very effective at blocking toxins getting into our bodies so the challenge was how to cross that barrier.

Again, enter the realm of nanotechnology, a topic I post about regularly.

This time, the scientists paired gold nanoparticles with small interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules to form a siRNA “sphere.” These miniscule balls were able to penetrate skin cells, and then the specifically-designed siRNA was able to effectively switch off the EGFR gene that codes for the epidermal growth factor receptor protein. EGFR is one of the crucial proteins in pathways to cancer, and can cause cancer cells to go into overdrive and proliferate.

The key factor was the sphere shape, concentrating the nucleic acid in the RNA. Linear nucleic acids can’t get into cells, but spherical ones can.

So what miraculous moisturizer did they use? La Mer? Clinique? Something mixed up in a special laboratory? Nope. They used a cheap, readily available moisturizer.

This type of breakthrough is yet another example of the brilliant strides science can make when one discipline talks to another. In this case, dermatology, cancer and chemistry came together under the remit of the Skin Disease Cancer Research Center at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern.