Dr. Hal Simeroth Explains Stem Cells in Skincare
Stem cell skincare is a widely misunderstood new technology surrounded by some fears, myths and misinformation. I’ve worked on scientific research involving stem cells for more than 20 years. Regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, has a well-proven track record in the medical field. But it is fairly new to the cosmetic iindustry, which can lead to a lot of questions, as truly new innovations in skincare come along once in a blue moon. So, today, I’ll be answering seven of the most common questions I get asked about stem cells and how they work in skin care.
- What do stem cells do in the human body? There are many different types of human stem cells. Perhaps the most well-known, and most controversial, are embryonic stem cells (sometimes called 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 a heart, brain, lungs, bones, muscles, etc. Using stem cells such as these for skincare is neither recommended nor necessary. After birth, the repairing stem cells of the body (often called Mesenchymal stem cells or MSC’s) continue the work on conducting the repair and rejuvenation of the various structural parts of body tissues (bone, ligaments, muscles, skin, nerve, eye, etc.). They continue this tissue specific work throughout our lives, but, because they 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 down. A third type of stem cell, more differentiated and more tissue specific, are 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 of the epidermis.
- Do only humans have stem cells? No, every living thing has stem cells – plants, animals and humans. They are obviously not the same genetically, but functionally they do similar things for the particular living entity they serve.
- Are there any actual stem cells in skin care products? No, whether the source is plant, animal or human stem cells, these cells are living things. They are much too large for topical application on the skin and too fragile to exist in skin care formulations. What can be valuable for skin care are the signaling proteins and/or metabolites that they secrete as part of their normal rejuvenating functions. These can be helpful to skin that has lost its useful supply of these due to age.
- Is there any scientific research to support the concept of 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.
- Are these MSC protein derivatives safe? Yes, they are natural proteins of the human body, and it is normal for our own stem cells to produce them in our body as needed. They are just small molecular proteins, they are not live cells, and they have no DNA or other cellular components.
- What about plant stem cells in human skin care products? Plant stem cells communicate in a different biochemical “language” that human cells do not recognize. Nor do the growth factors, cytokines and other proteins, which are the products of plant stem cells, have the ability to act in the same way as human stem cell derivatives in communicating with human cells. There are lesser ways, however, that plant stem cell derivatives can uniquely assist in increasing production of human skin cells and collagen by providing nutrients and acting as cellular stimulants in the skin. However human stem cells are much more effective.
- Is the use of stem cells in skin care just a passing fad or will it continue to grow? There is no question that stem cell science is just in its early stages. Many are saying that stem cell science will completely change medical care as we know it. We are in the infancy stages and there are many more advances to come. This is not a passing fad; it is a new paradigm that will bring great future benefits to skin rejuvenation and more.
Did you learn anything new? Tell me about it in the comments.