A wrinkle-busting revolution
Are stem cells about to change the way we think about in anti-ageing creams?
In America and Europe, stem cells are being hailed as a revolution in anti-ageing. It all started when stem cells were used in medical procedures and transferred out of the body, put through a centrifuge-like process and injected back into the same body to heal joint problems such as arthritis. Patients discovered an added benefit - their skin looked smoother, less wrinkled and within days their family and friends said they looked younger.
Sydney cosmetic doctor and stem cell clinician Ralph Bright has been using stem cells to successfully treat a range of medical issues, but says anti-ageing is relatively new.
"I'll never forget the woman whose knee was injected with stem cells to repair it, and came back two months later saying her skin on her face was smoother and more elastic. We hadn't touched her face," he says.
The benefits of stem cells to relieve joint pain for men and women have been around for many years, but their cosmetic use is relatively new, and their derivatives are now being put into a new generation of face creams.
Sydney surgeon Bill Lyon says "many people believe stem cells are the holy grail in many aspects of medicine with excellent results. In animal experiments, stem cells have been shown to improve skin quality and integrity. They are thought to replenish the aged cells and tissues within the skin."
US cosmetic company Jeunesse has released Luminesce, a range of creams and serums containing cytokines, the stem-cell derived messengers (or growth factors) that communicate between stem cells within the human body. They are found in and around stem cells.
New York plastic surgeon and anti-ageing doctor Vincent Giampapa, who is a spokesman, for the brand, explains: "Growth factors or cytokines are the cell's language. In other words, the way thousands of cells communicate allowing them to do one vital function - repair and regenerate the tissue in the body. These cytokines are packed with vitamins and nutrients to nourish skin, and send signals to the body to slow down the signs of aging . After extraction, the stem cells go through an extensive process to isolate the cytokines. These are in the creams."
"It is important to understand these stem cells and their receptors are extracted from the fat cells of grown adults. Human adult fat cells are packed with stem cells," Dr Giampapa stresses.
Dr Bright says it's not possible to have live stem cells in a cream, so for now, this is the next best thing. "You cannot keep stem cells active in a cream, so the use of cytokines, the cell's messengers if you like is the closest we can get in a cream."
Dr Lyon is sceptical when it comes to creams. "Cosmeceuticals with stem cell extracts will work as well as any other product as long as the base ingredients are effective," he says. "The problem with any topically derived cream is getting the ingredients through the barrier [the skin] unchanged and still active. If this has been achieved they could be effective."
Cosmetic surgeon Dr Ron Bezic agrees: "I haven't seen the creams, but active cytokines would potentially be effective in switching on the body's own healing mechanisms. Stem cells and their mediators have shown enormous potential in the area of tissue regeneration and anti-ageing. This could lead to increased skin elasticity, reduced wrinkles and improved texture, but it's important to remember there is not just one magical treatment. Basics like sunscreen, for example, are still critical regardless of other creams or treatments."
In the meantime it's clear this is just the beginning in terms of stem cell products and technology. "There is a lot of research going on in this field at the moment worldwide," says Dr Bezic.
"The technology behind human stem cell-derived skincare, created from human adipose tissue, is the fastest growing area in facial rejuvenation, with the USA leading the charge in research and development," claims Dr Giampapa. "Stem cells are a key element in the ageing process. We are just at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using human adult stem cells to regenerate the skin's growth factors that support skin rejuvenation."