Stem cell based cosmeceuticals popular but lack sufficient human studies

March 18, 2013

Consumers’ enthusiasm for stem cell-based cosmeceuticals should not overshadow the reality that these products remain unsupported by rigorous research, says an expert who spoke at the Cosmetic Surgery Forum.

 

Las Vegas - Consumers’ enthusiasm for stem cell-based cosmeceuticals should not overshadow the reality that these products remain unsupported by rigorous research, says an expert who spoke at the Cosmetic Surgery Forum. “Stem cell research has been on people’s minds - and imaginations,” says Erin Gilbert, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.A.D., assistant professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn, N.Y. A stem cell is a cell that can divide and differentiate, thereby allowing self-renewal.

Along with sheep and cow placentas or umbilical cord, Dr. Gilbert says, sources of stem cells used in cosmeceuticals can include bone marrow, adipose tissue, blood and skin (Yun UW, Yan Z, Amir R, et al. Biotechnol Genet Eng Rev. 2012;28:47-59). Conversely, she says, plant-derived stem cells typically come from Swiss apple seed, lilac seed, jasmine and edelweiss.

Stem cell popularity

Because it’s impossible to make synthetic stem cells de novo, Dr. Gilbert says, stem cells are a natural ingredient. Most stem cells used to create topical products are clones of original cells. More specifically, “Stem cell components in cosmeceuticals are produced by extracting stem cells from animal or plant sources and culturing them under uniform laboratory conditions.” Specific stem cell extracts are derived by purification processes.

Some of the hottest cosmeceuticals available include stem cell serums, creams and topical products containing multiple stem cell extracts. “The downside of products containing intact stem cells is that they have no real biologic utility, as they are DOA in the absence of a supporting biological environment,” Dr. Gilbert says. “Products containing whole-tissue homogenates are likely to be more effective anti-aging treatments because they offer a broader range of beneficial substances.”

Seeking more data

Manufacturers of stem cell-based cosmeceuticals claim these products can rejuvenate and regenerate the skin, Dr. Gilbert says. Studies show that adipose-derived stem cells secrete growth factors that stimulate collagen synthesis in dermal fibroblasts (Kim JH, Jung M, Kim HS, et al. Exp Dermatol. 2011;20(5):383-387), as well as angiogenesis (Lin CS, Xin ZC, Deng CH, et al. Histol Histopathol. 2010;25(6):807-815). “Stem cell-derived growth factors and cytokines remain of strong interest to researchers in the aesthetics space simply because no other cell in the body does what stem cells can do,” she says.

Nevertheless, Dr. Gilbert does not sell stem cell-derived products in her practice because, to date, they aren’t backed by adequate human studies. To bolster stem cell research, she serves on the fundraising committee of the New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF). “The research being performed by NYSCF is truly on the cutting edge of stem cell biology,” she says. DT

 

Disclosures: Dr. Gilbert reports no relevant financial interests.