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The Role of Stem Cells in Beauty—Today and Tomorrow

By: Marie Alice Dibon, PharmD
Posted: August 31, 2011, from the September 2011 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Plant stem cells are a new source of actives. No more, no less. What makes them special? We didn’t know how to grow or preserve them. They can yield classes of compounds that are deeply linked to plant cell differentiation and growth.

Do these compounds have special effects on human cells? Not necessarily, although most actives making their way through the epidermis will affect stem cells one way or another. That is just common sense.

Are plant and human stem cells related? Not at all. It is not because a compound was extracted from plant stem cells that it automatically has measurable effects on human skin stem cells. We know it does if we test for it, and the progress made in the culture of human stem cells have allowed us to measure those effects.

Again, the odds that actives extracted from plant stem cells have an affect on human stem cells are high if this active penetrates the upper layers of the skin, but no more or no less than any other active with the same bioavailability.

When using the term “plant stem cells,” we tend to confuse the issue and lead consumers to believe that there is a link between the origin of the active and its effects. It would be more appropriate to talk about meristemic cells, which is the proper term for plant stem cells. This is not to say that there aren’t great actives coming from meristemic cells and that this research and development isn’t worthwhile.