Activate Self-Renewing Skin Stem CellsApril 2012
By Gary Goldfaden, MD, and Robert Goldfaden
Maintaining more luminous skin is dependent upon your body’s unique ability to replace dead skin cells. This vital process of continuous self-renewal depends on the activity of epidermal stem cells.
The epidermis (upper skin layer) has been shown to replace itself in just 20 days in young adults, compared to 30 days in middle-aged adults.1 Unfortunately, this rate of renewal dramatically declines after age 50.
The exciting news is that the decline in the skin’s capacity to renew itself may be safely slowed or even reversed.
Researchers have found that when applied to the skin, a novel, patent-pending preparation of cultured stem cells derived from the Alpine rose may stimulate epidermal stem cell activity.2
In this article, epidermal stem cells’ role in skin beauty is detailed, along with supportive data on Alpine rose stem cells’ ability to activate the skin’s innate power of self-renewal.
The Alpine rose (Rhododendron ferrugineum) thrives in the Swiss Alps and the Pyrenees where it endures high altitudes, extreme cold, dry air, and high levels of ultra violet radiation.
This plant’s ability to withstand harsh environmental stress factors such as freezing temperatures, drought, and scorching UV rays prompted researchers to investigate the Alpine rose as a source of protection for human skin cells. Like the Alpine rose, human skin cells must resist a host of environmental stressors and lock in essential fluids. Skin that performs this barrier function well is more resilient and less likely to develop fine lines and wrinkles or show other signs of aging.
The skin functions as an essential barrier to protect the body from microbial invaders, toxins, the ravages of weather, dehydration, and mechanical trauma. This protective function is governed by stem cells. There are two broad classes of stem cells: pluripotent embryonic stem cells, which have the capacity to develop into any cell type, and adult stem cells, which can differentiate to become some or all of the specialized cell types present in a specific tissue or organ. The adult stem cells in the skin reside in the deepest layer of the epidermis, close to hair follicles.
Epidermal stem cells help to facilitate the turnover of all skin cells, replenishing their supply and maintaining a continuous equilibrium of skin cells in all stages of their life cycles. Epidermal stem cells have relatively slow turnover compared to other skin cell types, but it is their tremendous reproducing potential that gives the skin the remarkable capacity to renew itself completely.3 These types of stem cells also are vitally important for repairing the skin after injury and enabling wound healing.4
The researchers found that applying selected plant stem cell extracts to the skin, specifically those cultured from the Alpine rose, offers protection to the epidermal stem cells, prolonging their lives, increasing their colony-forming efficiency and enhancing their function. These potent plant stem cells from the Alpine rose appear to stimulate the skin’s own epidermal stem cell activity, revitalizing it and boosting its capacity for repair and self-renewal.
These newly activated skin cells may then engage in the important functions of manufacturing the proteins and lipids needed to repair damaged skin and thus help maintain elasticity and resilience by protecting skin cells from damage. The newly activated cells produce skin that has a fresh, more radiant, appearance.
Research Produces Promising Results
The number of colonies that stem cells are able to form is a measure of their vitality and activity. Stem cells are evaluated in terms of their colony-forming efficiency (CFE). Epidermal stem cells treated with an Alpine rose stem cell extract have shown a better ability to form colonies than untreated stem cells. The epidermal stem cells’ colony-forming efficiency increased by as much as 75% when treated with a 0.15% Alpine rose stem cell extract.2
In an in vitro study, treated and untreated epidermal stem cells were exposed to UVA and UVB light. The treated stem cells were better able to maintain their integrity and were protected from UV-induced stress. The treated cells were able to maintain their healthy colony-forming efficiency even in the presence of UV radiation, which would normally be expected to reduce colony-forming efficiency.
In a recent clinical trial, 22 subjects ranging in age from 20 to 52 applied a sunscreen with SPF 30 to one half of the face and the same sunscreen fortified with a 0.4% Alpine rose stem cell extract to the other half of the face. This application was repeated three times each day for 16 consecutive days. The subjects’ skin was evaluated for transepidermal water loss prior to treatment, and on day 3 of the study the subjects went on a week-long ski holiday in the Alps. One week after the conclusion of the holiday—day 17 of the study—the subjects’ skin was reevaluated.
The study investigators found that transepidermal water loss was 42% lower on the side of the face where the sunscreen fortified with Alpine rose extract was applied.2
The same study also used white light photography and trained observers to assess specific skin characteristics including wrinkles, redness, and radiance before and after treatment. Observers reported that wrinkles were less visible in 45% of the subjects and 54% of participants had more radiant skin on the side treated with the Alpine rose extract. Half of the subjects reported that their skin treated with the Alpine rose preparation showed greater overall improvement compared to the untreated side in terms of reduced irritation and improved protection from the cold exposure. Subjects treated with the Alpine rose noticed visible improvement in the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Your skin’s capacity to replace dead skin cells with new ones is important to maintaining youthful-looking skin. This process of continuous self-renewal is governed by epidermal stem cells. With advancing age, stem cell activity dramatically declines and the skin’s capacity for self-renewal diminishes. Stem cells from the Alpine rose—a hardy flowering shrub that thrives in cold, dry winters high in the Swiss Alps—may protect the skin from environmental stress and damage by activating epidermal stem cell activity.
The epidermal stem cells’ ability to form colonies—a key measure of their vitality—increased by as much as 75% when treated with a 0.15% Alpine rose stem cell preparation. Research reveals that skin treated with Alpine rose stem cells is better able to resist environmental stress and support natural self-renewal. Skin treated with Alpine rose stem cells also visibly improved in terms of reduction of wrinkles, fine lines, and irritation, and was better able to respond to changes in temperature and humidity.
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1. Grove GL, Kligman AM. Age-associated changes in human epidermal cell renewal. J Gerontol. 1983 Mar;38(2):137-42.
2. Available at: http://www.swissgenesisskincare.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/aldenine.pdf. Accessed January 5, 2012.
3. Margadant C, Charafeddine RA, Sonnenberg A. Unique and redundant functions of integrins in the epidermis. FASEB J. 2010 Nov;24(11):4133-52.
4. Charruyer A, Ghadially R. What’s new in dermatology: epidermal stem cells. G Ital Dermatol Venereol. 2011 Feb;146(1):57-67.
5. Peng Y, Reyes JL, Wei H, et al. RcDhn5, a cold acclimation-responsive dehydrin from Rhododendron catawbiense rescues enzyme activity from dehydration effects in vitro and enhances freezing tolerance in RcDhn5-overexpressing Arabidopsis plants. Physiol Plant. 2008 Dec;134(4):583-97.
6. Louis A, Petereit F, Lechtenberg M, Deters A, Hensel A. Phytochemical characterization of Rhododendron ferrugineum and in vitro assessment of an aqueous extract on cell toxicity. Planta Med. 2010 Oct;76(14):1550-7.