Aestheticians today are faced with a plethora of new products claiming to improve the skin. How do we differentiate between the hype and what can really help?
Plant stem cells are considered to be totipotent, meaning they can give rise to any plant tissue. They are also plentiful, located in apical meristems of roots and shoots (buds for example). Any somatic plant cell can revert from its differentiated state to become a totipotent stem cell. Thus, in order to harvest stem cells, companies that produce stem cells will often wound a plant so that some of its cells around the wound will revert to stem cells. Once harvested, plant stem cell tissue is grown in culture to produce large quantities for industrial demand, a process which proves to be both a renewable and eco-friendly resource. To prepare stem cell cultures for use in a product, the cultures are dried down to a powder or extracted where the live stem cell itself is destroyed. When cultures are dried to a powder, stem cells break apart in the process. Instead of drying, stem cells may also be extracted for their important components (much like making a juice or pressing olives for their oil) and in this case extracts are also usually dried and then resuspended in solvents.
Perhaps as protection during or as a result of their rapid division, stem cells are rich in potent antioxidants providing great advantages to human skin. Each species of stem cell will also produce its own special profile of secondary metabolites, meaning molecules that are not needed for the cell’s growth and reproduction. Secondary metabolites often coevolved with a plant’s environment to deter predators or attract other organisms for mutual benefit. Regardless, it is the secondary metabolites that are often of benefit to human skin, activating protective pathways in human cells or stimulating growth and division. Grape stem cells provide an excellent example of these actions; they produce a profile of metabolites that are photo-protective for the human skin and delay cellular senescence. Many secondary metabolites also act as antifungal or antibacterial compounds that provide further protection for the skin. For example, lilac and marrubium vulgare contain verbascoside, a compound known for its antimicrobial activity and anti-inflammatory activity.
As with any exciting new ingredient category, misinformation surrounds the use of stem cells in skin care. Scientific validity must be utilized in functional skin care formulation, clients must be educated to have realistic expectations in using stem cell-containing products.
Michael Q.Pugliese, CEO, Circada by Dr. Pugliese