Where Do Stem Cells in Skincare Come From?

Know The Source of Stem Cells In Your Beauty Products

A great deal of publicity is being given to the concept of using stem cell technology in skin care. Some stem cell sources, from which the derivatives in skin care products are harvested, are highly questionable.

Derivatives Harvested from Plant Stem Cells

A number of products contain derivative substances from plant stem cells. Today, there are many different plant stem cell ingredients available (we’ve all heard of apple stem cells, right?). There is no scientific evidence that stem cell material from any plant can mimic the activity of our stem cells in the human body, as there are genetic boundaries that cannot be crossed. However, some plant stem cell derivatives do provide nutrients and metabolites that stimulate human epidermal stem cell production, which may be useful. But plant stem cells cannot act like human stem cells. Be sure that scientific research and clinical testing backs up any plant stem cell claims in a skin care product.

Stem Cells from Animal Sources

There are some products in the skin care arena that claim to have stem cell material from various animals in their products. An Australian company is making products with sheep embryo material in it; another is using sheep placenta material. Yet another company in Slovakia is making product using rabbit placenta material. Using animal tissue in this way definitely has ethical reservations. Beyond this, however, is the same issue found with using plant stem cell material - there is no scientific basis for believing that stem cell material from animals will provide a stem cell like function for human skin. There is no independent research to support such a claim, and there is no body of scientific material or research that even provides a foundation for a hypothesis. On this one we say buyer beware!

Human Stem Cell Sources

There are a few skin care products being marketed that claim to contain human stem cell material of some type. As mentioned before any product that claims to have actual stem cells in it cannot be effective. Human stem cells are fragile and easily destroyed, plus they cannot be absorbed topically into the skin and will offer no value in skin care. It is the protein derivatives (growth factors, cytokinal peptides, helper proteins) from stem cells that can offer benefit for skin repair and renewal. The question then arises, from what human stem cells are these derivatives harvested? Some claim that they use pluripotent (embryonic) stem cells as the source for these derived proteins. These may come from fetal tissue, or in some cases directly from human ovum. Both of these sources raise important ethical questions about such a source. In addition, pluripotent stem cells are found in the early stages of fetal development and are effective in developing babies, not in later life repair and replacement. Additionally, some studies have shown that pluripotent derivatives may actually cause tumor growth. There are a number of types of human adult stem cells, most are tissue specific and found in many of our organs. They provide a variety of functions in maintaining, replacing, repairing and renewing many of the different cell types in the human body. A highly studied and very important type of Adult Stem Cell is the Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC). It is multi-potent, which means it can differentiate into many different types of cells. It circulates in the blood and is located in all of our tissues. It responds to biochemically transmitted needs from areas of trauma. Sensing the need, like a master coordinator, the MSC’s begin to multiply and release different signals to bring in other anti-inflammatory and immune cells to aid in the battle. The MSC’s can also differentiate or change into many different types of cells important to the structure and function of the body. The different types of cells that can be produced by the MSC include bone, cartilage, muscle, heart tissue, tendons and ligaments, connective tissues, skin, and eye tissue. MSC’s are stem cells that are natural to our adult bodies. From birth they are responsible for orchestrating the natural healing and renewing processes of the body. As we age, and as more and more of our MSC’s differentiate into other cells of the body, there are less available for their renewal function which contributes to increased aging of our tissues and the slower healing response. The question as to how MSC’s conduct this renewing process has been answered by a number of clinical studies. Like conductors directing an orchestra, MSC’s send out communications that direct tissue renewal. Rather than serving as stem cells to regenerate tissues as originally thought, MSC’s actually serve as cellular factories that secrete mediators to stimulate repair of tissues or modulate the local environment to foster other beneficial effects. It is these “mediators” that we are interested in for skin care. Much research has been done in seeking to harvest these renewing mediators secreted by MSC’s, (the growth factors, cytokinal peptides, matrix proteins and helper molecules). Growing cultures of MSC’s (stromal cells) outside of the body by simulating human body conditions provides a means to create massive numbers of cells as mentioned in the well known textbook Molecular Biology of the Cell. After allowing these MSC colonies to develop to their fullest, under controlled conditions, the MSC’s are removed, leaving only the secreted proteins behind; then the conditioned medium is combined into lots containing equal quantities of the growth condition variables. This conditioned medium, which now contains all of these important, naturally secreted renewing and healing elements can be carefully integrated into a topically applied skin care formulation, which has the appropriate carrier mechanisms for the skin. This is the source of the human stem cell derivatives in Stemology products. MSC derivatives in skincare have been widely studied, and proven to have topical benefit on the skin. One such medical journal, The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery stated “The application of topical growth factors (from MSC) stimulate the repair of facial photo-aging, resulting in new collagen synthesis, epidermal thickening and the clinical appearance of smoother skin with less visible wrinkles.” Learn something new about stem cells in skin care? Tell me about it in the comments.