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Plant Stem Cells: The Next Generation in Skin Care Technology
By: Sam Dhatt
Posted: September 28, 2012, from the October 2012 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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These three issues—wrinkles, skin tone and firmness—have led to the recent explosion of research resulting in the Botox revolution and other injectables, laser treatments, microdermabrasion and myriad other in-office procedures. In addition, a growing number of eco-minded clients now also demand the smallest possible carbon footprint for products and services they purchase, including environmental sustainability in the formulation of skin care products.
Plant stem cells may help you meet and surpass your clients’ expectations in all of these areas at the same time. Either as an alternative to or adjunct to surgery and medical procedures, today’s new generation of plant stem cell products offers skin care professionals the ability to stay current, viable and profitable in a swiftly changing industry.
A detailed explanation
How exactly does stem cell technology work? Stem cells in plants are referred to as meristematic, or undifferentiated cells. These chameleonlike cells, carrying the entire DNA gene expression of the plant, can morph, or differentiate, into other cell types to help the plant regenerate. This ability makes them invaluable in any number of medical and cosmetic applications.
The first step is to generate the meristematic cells by slightly cutting the plant. Triggered by the wound, plant hormones called auxins cause the plant to form a defensive response called a callus. In this callus tissue, normal differentiated cells revert to de-differentiated cells and become the stem cells, which then may be used in stem cell technology. In other words, the experience of being wounded “un-scripts” plant cells, erasing their role definition, so that they become neutral in terms of their function. This capacity to return to a neutral state is known as totipotency. By contrast, adult human stem cells exhibit multipotency, using a few cells drawn from an organ to generate an entirely new organ, just as the severed arm of a starfish can generate a whole new starfish. Scientists are investigating this potential means to regenerate damaged tissues, such as neural brain tissue after a stroke or blood cells for marrow replacement.
Next, the meristematic cells are cultured in a laboratory setting. There, the concentration of phenylpropanoids—active substances created in response to injury or trauma—is multiplied in these cells by 1,000 times or more. As the stem cells are cultured in this manner, their chemical purity is also enhanced, unlike traditional botanicals, allowing for more influence in safety, control and standardization. When the finished product is applied topically, it works to trigger self-renewal in human skin. This effect is further enhanced by the interaction of high percentages of polysaccharides, phytosterols, amino acids and mineral salts—substances that work synergistically to allow self-repair of the skin.