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The Future is Here

By: Sara Mason
Posted: March 3, 2010, from the March 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Adult stem cells located in some adult tissues can only differentiate into their own or related cell types. These cells act as a repair system for the body but also maintain the normal turnover of regenerative organs such as the skin. Epidermal stem cells replenish and maintain the balance of cells within the skin tissue and regenerate tissue damages during injury. But with age, the number of skin stem cells decreases and their ability to repair the skin becomes less efficient. In contrast to the human variety, plant cells are totipotent, meaning that every cell has the ability to regenerate new organs (leave, flower, seed, etc.) or even the whole plant. Besides, all plant cells can dedifferentiate and become a stem cell. All stem cells, independently of their origin (plant, animal or human) contain specific epigenetic factors whose function is to maintain the self-renewal capacity of stem cells.

Stem cells from a rare red grape variety provide the basis for Mibelle’s latest skin care ingredient the Swiss company claims can help protect human skin stem cells [For more information on Mibelle, read “Pushing Boundaries: Claims & Substantiation in Skin Care” in the April 2009 issue of GCI magazine. Also available online at]. The company claims Solar Vitis, a powder based on the stem cells of the Gamay Tenturier Fréaux grape, helps the skin stem cells maintain their characteristics and protects these essential cells against the stresses induced by UV, delaying senescence. According to Mibelle, these plant stem cells contain components and epigenetic factors that can protect human skin stem cells, in this case from UV radiation. The internal fluid of these plant cells contains components that help to protect and maintain the function of the human stem cells. This variety is one of the few red grapes that has red flesh and juice—the majority have red skin but white flesh and juice—which is due to the high quantity of anthocyanins in the fruit.

Normally congregating in the skin of the grape, the anthocyanins in the Gamay Tenturier Fréaux variety are also present in the flesh, leading to higher antioxidant levels overall, and explaining the red color. These antioxidants, along with other metabolites present in the grape, make it an excellent candidate for the company’s PhytoCellTec technology, which enables Mibelle to culture the plant cells in large quantities in the laboratory. The technology, developed in 2008, enables the company to breed cells in the laboratory from plants that are rare, protected, seasonal or otherwise unavailable.

To harvest the stem cells, the company first induces a wound in the plant, which causes the surrounding cells to dedifferentiate (turn back into stem cells) and form a wound-healing tissue called a callus.

Once the wound has healed, these cells can differentiate again and build new tissue. These callus cells are harvested by Mibelle, and can be cultivated on a large scale using a bioreactor system.