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60 May 2015 | beautystorebusiness.com Skincare Spotlight I SOMETIMES THINK THE SKINCARE WORLD suffers from what I think of as Òflavor-of-the-month syndrome,Ó meaning that every month there is a new ingredient that is on everyoneÕs lips and in most brandsÕ jars. Do you remember the pomegranate craze? Followed by the acai berry fad? And the bee venom phenomenon? The list goes on. Usually, all of these ingredients are beneficial to the skin and, indeed, are here to stay, whether or not they remain as trendy. Stem cells have been such an ingredientÑvery vis- ible over the last few years, still used in cosmetic products today, and sometimes still misunderstood. LetÕs take a look at this ingredient. Remember that there is no silver bullet in skin care and no one miracle ingredient; but rather a forever evolving body of research that shows the various benefits of numerous ingredients. How do we defi ne stem cells? 1 . Embryonic & adult stem cells If you are lucky, the following paragraphs should take you back to high-school biology. Stem cells are undiffer- entiated cells characterized by self-renewal. They multiply to produce new stem cells and are characterized by differen- tiation: Upon exposure to tissue-specific biochemical signals, they turn into tissue-specific specialized cells. They play a key role in tissue development and regeneration and represent an ideal model for understanding tissue proliferation and differentiation. There are two major categories of human stem cells: embryonic and adult. Embryonic stem cells have the extraordinary potential to form all tissues of the body. They can be found in the early embryos (human embryos between zero and three- to five-days-old) and are also present in the umbilical cord blood collected at birth. Embryonic stem cells are undifferentiated cells char- acterized by their combined capacity for self-renewal and differentiation: They can multiply to produce new identical stem cells and have a potentially unlimited proliferation capacity. Upon exposure to tissue-specific biochemical signals, embryonic stem cells create spe- cialized cells that may develop into different tissues. Adult stem cells have been found in most tissues and organsÑincluding the skinÑof fetuses, children and adults. They contribute to tissue homeostasis and ensure tissue renewal. Adult stem cells have a similar ability to proliferate as embryonic stem cells but they are already Òpre-determined,Ó such as, engaged in a cer- tain direction for differentiation. Their potential is therefore more limited. For example, adult stem cells cannot reproduce a whole organism. Adult stem cells are however involved in tissue renewal, regeneration and repair. Their main role is to regenerate tissue. Adult stem cells are not randomly distributed, but are concentrated in tiny regions called Òniches.Ó Each niche is composed of stem cells and differentiated cell types that secrete and organize a rich environment of extracel- lular matrix and other factors that allow stem cells to conserve their properties. Inside the niche, stem cells are often quiescent, but they interact constantly with their environment. For example, environmental changes might actively signal to the niche to mobilize the stem cell in response to injury. 2 . Skin stem cells In the skin, niches are found in hair follicles that maintain skin stem cells in a non-differentiated state. The epidermis stem cells are essentially located in the erector muscle of hairs. Skin stem cells may migrate either toward the sur- face of the skin to replenish the epidermis or towards the basis of the hair follicle to give rise to its constituents. Skin stem cells also continuously renew the skin. 3 . Plant stem cells Moving beyond human cells, letÕs look at plant stem cells. Plants are an extremely interesting source of stem cells, and similarly to human skin, plants contain stem cells that are located at their apical and root meri- stem. The meristems are composed of totipotent stem cells capable of generating an entire organism. They are found in those regions of the plant where growth takes place. There are nearly inexhaustible reservoirs of undifferentiated cells capable of self-sustaining and of providing precursors for differentiated cells. It is therefore possible, from only small fragments of a plantÕs meristem, to create multiple copies of the same plant, as well as to produce plant stem cells extract under sterile and standardized conditions. Using stem cells in treatment (of the skin and otherwise) Stem cell cellular therapy Unlike conventional therapeutic methods based on the use of molecular chemical compounds (antioxidants) or physical approaches (laser), cellular therapy is based on the use of living cells. Cellular therapy is being used in the treatment of diseases and conditions, including cancer, neurodegenerative diseases such as ParkinsonÕs disease and AlzheimerÕs disease; and tissue and organ lesions, such as heart infarction or cirrhosis and aging. Stem cell use for the skin Burns The major skin condition for which stem cells have been used is severe burns. Fragments of healthy skin may be taken from patientsÕ skin unaffected from burns and cul- tured in vitro. Once amplified, the cells derived from the healthy tissue will recreate an epidermal tissue, which should be larger than the burnt surface so that it can be easily grafted on the areas to treat. Preliminary data has been published showing convincing results that include healing phenomena and disappearance of pain. Understanding Stem Cells Discover the variety and benefi ts of this ingredient— and what it could mean for your beauty store. by Ada S. Polla, with research assistance from Anne Pouillot Photo courtesy of Ada S. Polla; photo by Kelli Dailey, Third Line Studios