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Ingredient Innovation: Inspired by Nature

By: Sara Mason
Posted: March 2, 2012, from the March 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.

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The difference between bio-utilization—using biological ingredients—and biomimicry is in learning what nature’s recipes are and applying them to your processes. Biomimicry provides a strategy for practical applications that emulate what nature has perfected. “We look to see how nature has solved the myriad problems that exist in their world,” says Mark Dorfman, a green chemistry naturalist. “By breaking down the problem to identify the key function of the problematic chemical, we can then begin to search nature for where we see a similar function,” explains Dorfman. “By opening the possibilities through nature, strategies and mechanisms become available that you didn’t even know could exist.” That’s the biomimetic process.

According to the newly formed conglomerate Biomimicry 3.8, the biomimicry field has changed at a stunning pace in recent years. In light of scientific advances, the technology to study nature and its chemistry at a depth and detail not possible in the past is now available. From ingredients that protect cellular DNA by increasing its Hayflick limit to those that increase the concentration of homogeneity of chromophores, new concepts that push the limits are based on intricate knowledge gained by taking a closer look at natural processes.

Mibelle is currently evaluating the possibility of biomimetic epidermal-to-dermal cell communication as a new anti-aging concept to achieve beneficial effects in the deep layers of the skin. “Current actives penetrate only into the superficial skin layers. Therefore, the activity of active ingredients to the deeper layers is really limited,” explains Fred Zülli, Mibelle Biochemistry. To address this issue, the company uses a novel concept based on the communication activities of cells, called cell signaling. Activating keratinocytes at the skin’s surface to release signals to stimulate fibroblasts activates the collagen and elastin, even though they cannot penetrate deep into the skin themselves. With the concept of epidermal-dermal cell communication, beauty products can be formulated that have a much faster and more efficient effect on the dermis and, therefore, will target the rejuvenation of deep wrinkles.

“The need to address deeper skin layers is obvious,” says Zülli. “But the idea to use biomimetic signaling as a new tool was our breakthrough.” Recent scientific literature showed there are a large number of molecules, such as growth factors and cytokines, that are involved in epidermal-dermal communication. “The limitation of the concept is to find active ingredients based on natural sources, which can stimulate the right release of signal factors from keratinocytes,” Zülli says.

Such scientific advances at a nanoscale—resulting only from a unique understanding of the inner workings of cells—allow the industry to innovate in groundbreaking ways.

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