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Plant Stem Cells: The Next Generation in Skin Care Technology

By: Sam Dhatt
Posted: November 12, 2012

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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.

Plant Stem Cell Technology

According to Mibelle Biochemistry, the earliest plant stem cell research was done using a unique variety of apples in 18th-century Switzerland, which had been hybridized to store well without rot in the days before refrigeration. The self-preserving nature of this plant, suggesting exceptional cell longevity, led to research that gave rise to early applications of plant stem cells for cosmetic use. Alpine rose, butterfly bush and coneflower were also early successes in the field.

Today’s newest powerhouses in this area—including edelweiss, gardenia and sea fennel—offer several benefits for the skin, such as effective protection from photodamage and oxidative stress; a tonic and re-energizing effect on tired skin; and deep, firming action to restore skin elasticity and contour around the jaw line and nasolabial areas, especially in mature skin.

Edelweiss. Edelweiss, which flourishes in harsh mountainous climates, produces several active substances to protect against the elements, including UV rays. The high concentrations of leontopodic acids A and B it produces have antioxidant properties, as well as anti-collagenase and hyaluronidase activity, potentially resulting in wrinkle-reduction.