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Edelweiss stem cells could help in the fight against ageing

By Katie Bird , 22-Oct-2008
Last updated on 12-Jun-2009 at 10:15 GMT2009-06-12T10:15:18Z

Italian biotech company the Institute for Biotechnological Research (IRB) has released an anti-ageing ingredient based on edelweiss stem cells.

The ingredient, Leontopodium alpinum stems, has high concentrations of leontopodic acids A and B which have strong antioxidant properties, according to the company.

In addition, the company claims the product has strong anti-collagenase and hyaluronidase actvity, therefore helping to limit the degradation of important macromuolecules in the skin.

Using the plant’s defence to protect the skin

The edelweiss active, like the rest of the company’s product portfolio, attempts to harness the protective substances the plant uses to defend itself against harsh climatic and environmental conditions.

“As edelweiss grows in harsh climates it is obliged to produce a number of active substances that help protect against the elements such as UV rays,” IRB’s Francesca Melandri told CosmeticsDesign.com.

The company uses what it refers to as its HTN technology to produce the ingredients in industrial quantities.

Firstly a small amount of plant biomass is chopped into tiny pieces and placed in a culture medium, explained Melandri. Damaging the plant in this way causes the cells that surround the damage to de-differentiate (to turn back into stem cells) and form a wound healing tissue called the callus.

The callus is then harvested and grown in a cell culture medium and from this we obtain the plant stem cells and consequently the secondary metabolites we need for our products, she explained.

Although the technology is well known, the challenge lies in successfully scaling up the production of the stem cells to industrial quantities, explained Melandri – a problem IRB claims to have solved with its HTN technology.

Environmentally friendly technology

Another major advantage to the method is the ability to produce metabolites from rare and protected plants without endangering the species.

“Most of the compounds that we deal with are incredibly complex and therefore very difficult, if not impossible, to synthesise in other ways,” she said.

They are present naturally in the plant, but at low concentrations, and if the species is already rare it would be environmentally damaging to harvest it at such levels, she added.

The company also uses the technology to produce a number of HTN actives that are more concentrated than the stem products.

An example of one of the HTN actives currently available on the market is Ajuga reptans, a flowering plant commonly known as as carpetweed. This active is available in concentrations of up to 85 per cent, allowing the company to use the INCI name for the pure substance.

Other HTN actives, including one that uses the edelweiss plant, are currently in development.

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