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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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There are two different sources of skin stem cells. Epidermal stem cells are located in the basal layer of the epidermis and at the base of hair follicles. The epidermal stem cells produce keratinocytes and are devoted to the replenishment of the normal epidermal keratinocytes in a normal cell turnover process. There have been many studies published on these stem cells.

The follicular stem cells (located in the hair bulge—not the hair bulb ) produce the hair follicle, as well as keratinocytes. They are involved with repair mechanisms, and have the ability to migrate to the site of injury. Normally, they stay in a quiescent (rest) state and are mobilized only for repair. There are many of those because there are many hair follicles on the skin—including those of vellus hair, which are invisible.

Whereas keratinocytes migrate vertically to the surface of the skin and become corneocytes, follicular stem cells from the hair bulge move sideway to the damaged sites. Recent research has shown that they can move up to 100 µm around the hair follicle. This is the first challenge presented when dealing with s

kin stem cells. How do we get them to move where we want them to?

Maintaining the Integrity of the Stem Cells’ Capital

The second challenge that stem cells present, though not as sexy on paper as that of getting them to go where they can do some effective repair, is no less important: Maintaining their integrity is paramount to their ability to keep producing new cells and help skin renew and repair itself.