Plant Stem Cells vs. Human Stem Cells

Dr. Hal Simeroth Explains the Differences Between Plant and Human Stem Cells in Skincare

Stem cells are one of the most promising advancements to come around in a long time in the medical and skin care fields. There is no question that stem cell science is still in its infancy, but the potential we have seen is revolutionary. Many are saying that stem cell science will completely change medical care as we know it! There are two major types of stem cells that are used in skincare today – plant and human. At Stemology, we want to help you have a better understanding of the benefits of each and the differences between the two, so you can make the choice that is right for you.

Plan Stem Cells

The stem cell revolution in skin care began with plant stem cells. Plant stem cells are the undifferentiated cells found in the meristems of vegetation. Like human stem cells, they have the ability to self-renew and replace specific plant cells in need of repair. For example, if you break off a plant stem, it grows back within a few weeks thanks to sem cells. That said, unlike human stem cells, the growth factors, cytokines and other proteins, which are the products of plant stem cells, do not have the ability to act in the same way in humans, as in plants. Plant stem cells communicate in a different biochemical “language” that human cells do not recognize. In skin care, plant stem cells provide moderate skin benefits, in delivering metabolites that encourage human stem cell activity but they are primarily formulated in conjunction with other actives or peptides because they have a limited function. Plant stem cell derivatives can uniquely assist in increasing production of human skin cells and collagen, but by the means of delivering some useful nutrients to the skin.

Human Stem Cells

There are many different types of human stem cells. Perhaps the best-known, and most controversial, are embryonic stem cells (sometimes referred to as pluripotent stem cells). These are the very first cells at the early stage of the embryo that are able to selectively produce all of the different tissues of the human body. They control the cellular formation of the embryo into a baby with heart, brain, lungs, bones, muscles, etc. Using stem cells such as these for skin care is neither recommended nor necessary. First there are some important ethical issues to be discussed in extracting stem cells from human embryo. And, second, pluripotent cells can “morph” into most anything, which could lead to undesirable consequences. After birth, the repairing stem cells of the body (often called Mesenchymal stem cells or MSC’s) continue the work of conducting the repair and rejuvenation of the various structural parts of body tissues (bone, ligaments, muscles, skin, nerve, eye, etc.). They continue this work throughout our lives. But, because MSC’s differentiate over time into other types of cells, our number of MSC’s decreases as we age. When we are young, we repair quickly; when we are older the process slows greatly over time. A third type of stem cell, more differentiated and more tissue specific, is often referred to as progenitor cells. They are in the “center” between stem cells and fully differentiated cells. The kind of potency they have depends on the type of their "parent" stem cell and also on their tissue specific niche. Epidermal stem cells would fall into this category, and are the critical stem cells which relate to the production of new epidermal cells, which is absolutely necessary to keep skin thick and healthy. For healthy skin, these stem cells make up about 10% of the basal layer (lowest layer) of the epidermis Scientific research supports the concept of topical MSC protein derivatives aiding in skin repair and rejuvenation. There are a number of research papers from doctors and scientists regarding this, and a body of scientific knowledge is rapidly developing which shows the interaction of these growth factors, cytokines, helper proteins, etc in the repair and rejuvenation process for skin. In other parts of the world treatments are actually being done to repair damaged tissue using MSC’s. These MSC protein derivatives are safe and natural proteins of the human body. It is normal for our own stem cells to produce them in our body as needed, and we all have them. They are just small molecular proteins, they are not live cells; they have no DNA or other cellular components. These “messenger” proteins provide “instructions” to our cells for growth and repair.

Stem Cells in Skincare

Skin care products do not contain actual stem cells. Whether the source is plant, animal or human stem cells, these cells are living things, which are way too large to penetrate the stratum corneum (the outer layer of the skin) for topical application, and too fragile to exist in skin care formulations. What can be helpful for topical skincare formulas are the signaling proteins and/or metabolites that the stem cells secrete as part of their normal rejuvenating functions. These can be valuable for skin that has lost its useful supply of these due to the aging process. We are just at the beginning stages of research and development with stem cells in healthcare and skin care. And there are many more advances to come! But, this is not a passing fad; it is a new paradigm that can bring great future benefits! Human stem cell technologies are viewed by many experts as one of the most exciting things to come along in skincare since the advent of glycolic acids nearly 50 years ago!