Stem Cells Plant Seeds to New Potential in Anti-Aging Skincare

By Gurpreet “Gogi” Sangha

CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of G.S. Cosmeceutical USA, Inc.

 In the Eighties, antioxidants heralded a new age in skincare with a host of free radical fighters that afforded broad-reaching protection against future signs of aging.

Alpha hydroxy acids came along to accelerate exfoliation and rejuvenate skin, while peptides emerged in the late Nineties to gain new ground with preparations that help repair damaged cells, relax wrinkles and build collagen.

Today, the arrival of plant stem cells in topical skincare carries a new mission: the ability to not only protect, prevent and repair aging skin cells but to actually replace lost and damaged cells with healthy new skin cells. Already, the applications are yielding dramatic results with newfound promise of revolutionizing the skincare industry in ways never before realized.

 An Apple a Day Keeps Signs of Aging Away

As we age, the turnover of human epidermal stem cells begins to slow. Over time, these critical cells function less efficiently. Hindered by a finite number of potential cell divisions, lost and dying cells start to outnumber fresh new cells, and, sooner than later, they culminate in signs of aging.

Plant stem cells, however, have the ability to divide over many generations and the unique capacity to stimulate and protect human stem cells. The results are a reduction in the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, collagen loss and other common signs of aging.

The most common plant-derived stem cell used in skincare today is the Swiss Uttwiler Spätlauber apple. First cultivated in the 18th century for its hardy, long-lasting fruit, this tannin-rich fruit offers a rich source of anti-aging activity.

By forming small wounds in “explants” of the stem cell tissue, scientists are able to stimulate large cell masses known as calluses, which contain the “unprogrammed” and undifferentiated cells of the plant. It is within these “blank canvases” that exciting, new applications in skincare yield promise, including the ability to increase the longevity of human skin cells and stimulate new ones.

In a Swiss in-house study published in the SOFW Journal in 2008¹, scientists showed that a 0.1% concentration of stem cells extracted from the Uttwiler Spätlauber apple stimulated the proliferation of human stem cells by 80%.

In followup experiments, the scientists irradiated a human stem cell sample with UV light. While nearly half of the cultured stem cells died when exposed to the UV light, the number of living cells grown in the culture containing the apple extract experienced only a small decrease.

Further Swiss studies showed that incubating fibroblast cells — the building blocks of collagen and other skin structural tissue proteins — in a 2% Uttwiler Spätlauber apple extract neutralized factors that lead to aging and, in some cases, actually reversed the process.

 Additional Plant Stem Cells Showing Promise

A wide range of plant stem cells, including extracts from edelweiss, echinacea, gotu kola and several lilac varietals, may offer significant future skincare applications.

For instance, edelweiss, an Alpine flower with a special affinity to survive extreme altitudes and solar radiation exposure, offers potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Edelweiss stem cells inhibit the enzymes that break down hyaluronic acid and collagen.

To illustrate, a cream with 1% edelweiss stem cells used twice daily reduced wrinkle depth of the eye contour area by 15% after 20 days of treatment in a clinical study involving 20 individuals.

The stem cells from echinacea, a botanical revered for its immune-strengthening properties, have also demonstrated an ability to inhibit collagenase, the enzyme that breaks down collagen, while stimulating the synthesis of new collagen in vitro.

Likewise, stem cells from the gotu kola plant, also known as tiger grass, have been shown to decrease the skin-degrading enzyme, hyaluronidase, by up to 90% and therefore retain the skin’s hyaluronic acid, a key extracellular matrix ingredient responsible for hydration and elasticity.

Other plant-derived stem cells may offer new applications in fighting acne. Syringa vulgaris L., otherwise known as common lilac, has been shown to inhibit 5α-reductase, an enzyme involved in sebum production, as well as decrease the pro-inflammatory chemokine IL-8. In clinical studies, a cream containing 1% of a patented plant stem cell extract reduced lesions in 29 acne patients by 40% in 30 days and showed a significant decrease in inflammation and melanin pigmentation.

By combining these plant-derived stem cells with other anti-aging actives, such as peptides, proteins and cell-active folic acid, we can rejuvenate skin cell DNA, the core center for all cell renewal processes, and literally give aging skin a fresh new start.

Gurpreet “Gogi” Sangha is the CEO and Chief Scientific Officer of G.S. Cosmeceutical USA, Inc., a Livermore, CA-based contract manufacturer of anti-aging skin care, body care, hair care, natural and organic-based products, and OTC cosmeceuticals. G.S. Cosmeceutical provides R&D, manufacturing and warehousing services to physicians, cosmetic entrepreneurs, corporate manufacturers, beauty start-ups and leading professionals in the spa and beauty industry.

For more information about G.S. Cosmeceutical USA, Inc., please visit or call 925-583-1426.

 Source: Schmid D, Schurch P, Belser E, Zülli F. Plant Stem Extract for Cell Longevity of Skin and Hair. SOFW Journal. 2008;134(5):30-5.

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