Stem cell technology – The next generation

Cosmetic raw material suppliers are pioneering the use of plant derived stem cells, discovering a new generation of actives for use in anti-ageing cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. Aran Puri investigates the ingredients and the products now championing them

Cosmetic raw material suppliers are pioneering the use of plant derived stem cells, discovering a new generation of actives for use in anti-ageing cosmetics and cosmeceuticals. Aran Puri investigates the ingredients and the products now championing them

Anti-ageing cosmetics/cosmeceuticals have been the big success story of the cosmetic industry over the last ten years. Sales and demand for anti-ageing cosmetics/cosmeceuticals moves from strength to strength despite the recession and all expert forecasts are in universal agreement that this trend is set to continue.

Companies all over the world are searching for actives with high activity and good marketable profiles to help their R&D and marketing teams to make and launch high profile products with claims that not only stimulate the consumer’s imagination but also stand up to the scrutiny of the regulatory and advertising standards.

One area which is rapidly emerging as a front runner is the advent and development of stem cell technology for cosmetics. Advances in the application of human stem cells in the field of medicine continue to make news headlines, and over the last ten years stem cells have stimulated immense public interest and spurred the industry to invest vast sums of money and effort into their advancement.

Such is the level of public interest and controversy in this topic that Barack Obama in one of his first acts since taking over as president of the US on 9 March 2009 issued an executive order 13505, entitled ‘removing barriers to responsible research involving human stem cells’.

Several clinics specialising in the pioneering use of human stem cells to alleviate serious medical conditions are reporting new breakthroughs almost every week. They claim to have had success in repairing damaged organs and tissues with stem cell therapy. The ultimate target is to harness the use of human stem cells for regenerative therapy for various diseases such as spinal cord injury, Parkinson’s disease and major tissue defects. Challenges to reproduce lineages efficiently without resulting in tumour formation or electing immune response are not considered insurmountable.

Meanwhile natural bust enhancement is now being offered by several companies by using their own stem cells harvested by liposuction from other parts of the body.

And scientists at the Institute for Stem Cell Therapy & Exploration at Gencay in France have made an important breakthrough and successfully grown human skin epidermis from human embryonic stem cells for use in reconstructive surgery.

Public response to these developments has been very positive. Unlike the usual cautious watch and see reaction to new medical developments they are putting their faith in the future of stem cell progress, for example by investing in saving of placenta stem cells of their newborn babies in cryogenic storage banks. The high upfront cost of about £1,500 for 25 years’ storage indicates the degree of faith and commitment.

The cosmetics industry has watched these developments with enormous interest from the sidelines since regulatory constraints prohibit the use of human materials, including stem cells, in cosmetics. Renowned for its enormous R&D ingenuity it has neatly side-stepped this problem by pioneering the use of plant derived stem cells, discovering their application as actives for anti-ageing cosmetics/cosmeceuticals.

Raw materials from plant stem cells

Three European companies have emerged as leaders in this field, two of them with plant derived stem cells and the third with cells derived from algae. They all claim to have designed materials to protect and rejuvenate human stem cells by combating environmental and UV stress. They also provide impressive in vitro and in vivo data to prove functionality

Led by Drs Fred Zulli and Cornelia Schurch and their R&D teams Mibelle has developed an active ingredient based on a rare form of apple stem cells. This was launched by Mibelle Biochemistry in February 2008 and it functions by protecting skin stem cells and slows the senescence of hair follicles.

In vitro and in vivo tests performed by Mibelle indicate that the ingredient, PhytoCellTec Malus Domestica, boosts the production of human stem cells, protects human stem cells from stress and decreases wrinkles. In vitro the extract was applied to human stem cells from umbilical cords and was found to increase the number of the stem cells in culture. Furthermore the addition of the ingredient to umbilical cord stem cells appeared to protect the cells from environmental stress such as UV light. Another interesting finding was the ability of the ingredient to delay the ageing of hair follicles, suggesting a possible use in anti-ageing hair preparations.

An interesting feature of this very successful launch was the imaginative, easy to understand marketing and PR style used to explain the complex area of stem cells spearheaded by the company’s marketing and sales manager Beata Hurst, focusing on a fresh apple near a young face.

Mibelle’s latest stem cell ingredient is based on stem cells from a rare red grape variety. The Gamay Tenturier Fréaux variety originating from the Burgundy region of France is used to produce this active ingredient with the key function being to help protect human skin stem cells from UV damage.

Stem cells are found in the epidermal layer of the skin and are involved in skin growth and regeneration. When they are harmed by UV radiation, their power to regenerate is compromised. Mibelle investigated the effect of the Solar Vitis ingredient on human epidermal stem cells in a cell culture medium looking at the capacity of the cells to form colonies. The colony forming efficiency (CFE) of the epidermal stem cells was stimulated by almost 50% in the presence of the Solar Vitis extract. In addition the ingredient totally counteracted the negative effect of the UV on the stem cells.

Another innovation in stem cell technology is the result of work by Roberto Dal Toso, director of R&D for Italian biotech company the Institute for Biotechnological Research (IRB) in collaboration with the University of Verona. They have developed natural active ingredients from plant stem cells by HTN biotechnology and launched several anti-ageing ingredients based on edelweiss, lilac (Syringa vulgaris), echinacea and Centella asiatica.

The key feature of this development is the isolation of leontopodic acids A and B which have strong antioxidant properties. The product has strong anti-collagenase and hyaluronidase activity, and helps to limit the degradation of important macromolecules in the skin. In vitro work gives convincing results and anti-wrinkle studies on human volunteers gave an average reduction of 15% in 20 days.

Romuald Vallee and Piere-Yves Morvan at Codif have developed two actives – Phycojuvenine for adult dermal stem cells and Phycosaccharide Al for adult epidermal stem cells. They stimulate the rejuvenation and optimise mobilisation.

The company has tested the effectiveness of the two actives on adult human stem cells from skin harvested during surgery and claims that with these actives older skin recovers a level of dermal and epidermal adult stem cells equivalent to that of younger skin. The cell culture efficacy results are impressive and in anti-wrinkle studies a reduction of up to 15% was observed.

In Asia Korean companies have shown considerable interest in stem cell technology and its application to cosmetics. However legislation last year by the Korean government banning the use of human stem cells in cosmetics has dampened new product development. One company, Regeron claims to have developed a human growth hormone using bioengineering techniques which binds to human stem cells inside hair follicles for continuous regeneration.

Application in finished products

One of the first ‘stem cell’ cosmetics was Amatokin Emulsion, launched in 2007 with claims that it “awakens the body’s own reservoir of stem cells”. This was followed by ReVive’s Peau Magnifique, with ingredients that “convert resting adult stem cells to fresh newly minted cells for a firmer, more defined appearance”.

One of the first majors onto the market was Christian Dior with claims that its Capture XP anti-ageing cream “works on skin stem cells to better repair wrinkles”. The products in the range (serum, moisturiser and eye cream) target adult stem cells in the skin, the cells that are responsible for the growth of all new cells in the organ. In an interview given at HBA in New York in September 2008 Eric Perrier, executive VP of R&D at LVMH Parfums & Cosmetiques said that there was huge potential for the application of stem cells in cosmetics for the protection of adult stem cells against environmental and UV stress.

And L’Oréal – not always first to market with new innovation but its pick-up of a new concept is generally considered an indication that a trend has reached critical mass – launched Absolue Precious Cell under its Lancôme brand in September 2009. The publicity claimed “stem cell technology is the future of skin care. Lancôme discloses a decisive breakthrough in stem cells’ environment and its ability to improve skin’s youthful quality”.

The environment around the stem cells is said to change with age and plays a crucial role in skin’s youthful quality. The aim here is to improve conditions around the stem cells and stimulate cell generation to reconstruct skin to denser quality. The claim is that within seven days there are visible signs of younger looking skin: smoother looking (87%), more radiant (87%), denser (90%), more uniform complexion (95%). A significant reduction of deep wrinkles is promised within four weeks.

Bruno Bernard, project director at the Paris research laboratories of L’Oréal was quoted in The Times as saying that rather than actual stem cells, a new apple extract is the key to the Absolue cream. The extract alters the ‘microenvironment’ surrounding the layer of skin stem cells between the upper layer of the skin, the epidermis, and the lower layer, the dermis. This reactivates sluggish stem cells and encourages the production of new epidermal skin cells, resulting in plumper, younger looking skin.

Over the last two years a large number of stem cell linked skin care products have been launched.

Consumer interest in stem cell skin care products, such as Absolue Precious Cell, has been enhanced by celebrity endorsement

In a recent edition of US Vogue it was revealed that Michelle Obama is a fan of the 3Lab Cellular Lifting Serum of Clark’s Botanicals, a high-end skin care product range that uses Mibelle’s PhytoCellTec Malus Domestica. Since the article was published, media coverage of the ‘Michelle Obama effect’ has snowballed, quickly spreading worldwide. A-list stars who have revealed that they are also fans of the apple extract ingredient include Jennifer Lopez and Helen Mirren.

The phenomenal success of futuristic films such as Avatar with a positive, feel good message about nature and science living in harmony in a brave new world will continue to stimulate consumer interest. This in turn will drive companies to strive towards and discover new technologies which blend nature and science to deliver this expectation for a promising new tomorrow.

Cosmetic companies will need to gear up to fuel consumer demand and insatiable appetite for new technology and products. Advances in stem cell technology is one area which will continue to make headline news for years to come – it’s a perfect concept for age defiant and youth enhancing new products of tomorrow.

Author
Aran Puri
president, Cosmeceutical Solutions
e-mail cosmeceutical.solu@alice.it
www.cosmeceuticalsolutions.eu

Featured Companies

Mibelle Biochemistry (more information, website)
Codif Technologie Naturelle (more information, website)

See also