Stem cell technology is one of the fastest growing and most intriguing areas of current medical research. From uses in burn therapy to orthopedic bone grafting, cancer treatments to bone marrow transplants, stem cells are being used to heal the body in extraordinary ways.
As leaders in skincare and anti-aging education, we are taking a closer look at the amazing potentials – and possible downsides – of stem cell therapy for skin maintenance. Let’s learn more about stem cells and their future in the aesthetic and cosmeceutical industries.
What are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are unique cells in both plants and animals that can become any type of cell or tissue. In humans, they originate in the embryo as foundational cells that later become highly differentiated into every tissue of the body. Once we are fully developed, these core stem cells play a pivotal role in the constant healing and regenerative processes of the body.
Stem Cells in Action
Stem cells work by dividing into “daughter cells” that go on to replace aged or injured cells. When a stem cell divides, it ensures the renewal of itself and therefore an ongoing supply of renewable cells and tissues.
Everyone has experienced or heard of the power of stem cells – from our development in the womb to reading about life-saving stem cell treatments. These cells have become a crucial aspect of modern life.
Consider the last time you injured yourself. After a cut or scrape, the skin must regenerate, and it calls upon stem cells to do so. When a cell or group of cells dies due to age or trauma, the body clears them away and stem cells are left to replace what was lost.
As we age, we also want to clear away the microscopic damage that occurs over time and repair it with regenerative stem cells. In fact, many aesthetic procedures intentionally rely on microtraumas to activate the skin’s stem cells for skin renewal or collagen production.
Types of Stem Cells
While some stem cells can differentiate into new cell types, some have more limitations than others. For instance, multipotent stem cells (like a muscle stem cell or skin stem cell) are only able to regenerate tissues of the same cell type (muscle cells or skin cells), while pluripotent stem cells can become any cell that the body needs.
Advances in technology, however, have developed a way to alter
multipotent cells so they can differentiate into a wider range of cell types. These
are called induced pluripotent stem cells. For our purposes in skincare
and aging, this technology gives us the ability to use certain stem cells for
purposes such as regenerating collagen or cartilage.
- Totipotent Stem Cells: Present only in
the unborn embryo less than about one week old and before implantation in the
uterus; can differentiate into any cell type during embryonic development,
including the placenta.
- Pluripotent Stem Cells: Versatile stem
cells found in the unborn embryo older than about one week that can become any
kind of cell in the body.
- Multipotent Stem Cells: Stemcells
found in infants and adults that arelimited to becoming only one tissue
type (i.e. muscle stem cells or nerve stem cells)
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells: Multipotent stem cells, usually from an adult, that have been converted back into pluripotent stem cells, allowing them to differentiate into other cell types.
The Use of Stem Cells in Aesthetics and Cosmeceuticals
The use of stem cells to reduce or prevent aging is a growing area of research. From cosmetic procedures that deliver stem cells via needles or incisions to stem cell products or stem cell activating products, the world of aesthetic stem cell use is constantly changing. Let’s explore some of the options:
Are Topical Stem Cell Cosmeceuticals Effective?
Many companies claim to use stem cells in their product formulations. Unfortunately, using stem cells as an anti-aging ingredient in a product formula is ineffective and, in most places, illegal. Here are a few key reasons why stem cells are not useful in topical cosmeceuticals:
- Stem cells are too large to enter via the skin.
Stem cells, or any cell, is far too large a structure to enter the skin’s barrier. If they cannot be absorbed, they will have no effect on the skin.
- Stem cells will not survive on the skin surface.
As living cells, stem cells require a blood supply to survive. When placed on the skin surface, the cells would shortly die and fail to deliver any benefits.
How are Stem Cell Actives Used in Aesthetics?
While stem cells cannot be directly used on the skin, there is still a way for cosmeceuticals to use the power of stem cells in their products. Special molecules called “actives” can be added to formulations to communicate with the stem cells present in the skin. These actives can influence the stem cell’s functioning through molecular messaging and encourage them to regenerate the skin.
These are a few of the most impactful stem cell “actives” used in cosmeceuticals:
- DNA protectants
- Wound healers
- Growth factors
How are Actives Developed into Products?
Many of the ingredients found in the list of stem cell actives above can be directly incorporated into cosmeceuticals where they influence the skin’s own stem cells. None of these are the cells themselves but are much smaller molecular structures.
Plants can serve as a source of stem cell actives. To obtain the actives for product use, the plants are “wounded,” then release stem cells during the healing process. These stem cells are multiplied in a lab. The molecules they use to send messages to each other about growth and healing are extracted, then placed into a cosmeceutical. The stem cells themselves are never found in the final product but their messengers are – and are able to send messages, in turn, to the skin’s own stem cells.
Important factors are taken into consideration to preserve the benefits of the actives such as concentration, safety, packaging, and shelf life. To come to market, each product must also meet all manufacturing and safety standards, as well as pass independent studies to determine its efficacy.
Are Stem Cell Therapies Safe?
Stem cells undoubtedly offer great potential for both regenerative medicine and aesthetic medicine. Scientists have already discovered that stem cell technology has the power to heal and regrow organs and potentially fight disease.
As with all things, however, the use of altering stem cells poses potential dangers as well as benefits. Some researchers question the possibility of autoimmune reactions or of cancer resulting from uncontrolled stem cell growth. We are presently unsure of how reliable induced pluripotent stem cells can be in creating a uniform, consistent, functioning tissue – or even the correct tissue needed.
Stem cell research is constantly evolving. As we discover more about the power of stem cells, we will learn how to use them as effectively and safely as possible.
Stem Cells and the Future of Skin Maintenance and Health
To understand the power of stem cells, we must first understand that the skin is an ever-changing organ. It is constantly healing, updating, and renewing. Stem cells naturally encourage our bodies’ growth and healing. Cosmeceuticals now include stem cell actives to “speak to” the skin’s own stem cells and encourage them to message toward health. Newer technologies, yet to come, may offer other ways to reap even more anti-aging benefits from powerful stem cells.
Many iS CLINICAL products contain ingredients from the six (6) groups of stem cell actives. These send important messages to the skin’s own stem cells that help skin regenerate, renew, and attain better health.