One of the biggest misconceptions is that the stem cell technology used for cosmetics and personal care applications might be derived from human or animal sources, a belief that Dr. Fabio Apone, scientific director and co-ordinator at Aterra Bioscience in Naples, Italy, wants to put straight.
Dr. Apone has spent the most part of his career working in this area. He says that this is only part of the misunderstanding when it comes to the technology, and in the course of this question and answer interview, he aims to set the record straight and to highlight the many advantages in this, the first of a two part article.
You have worked in this area for 20 years now, can you tell me where stem cell technology for skin care applications is at right now?
When we refer to stem cells technology for skin care application, we are actually talking about plant stem cells. The use of plant stem cells is becoming more and more popular, because they represent a sustainable tool to develop new active ingredients for the market, providing alternative solutions to the more conventional products.
My research group has developed a solid know-how and skills in Plant Science and in particular on the manipulation of plants in vitro and how to develop tissue cultures from any plant species that can be of interest for health care applications.
A rigorous experimental approach, often followed by a patent deposition together with publication on international peer-review journals, guarantees the reliability of the claims that we use for our products.
What advantages does stem cell technology have in creating active ingredients over more conventional skin care solutions?
The use of plant stem cells to create new active ingredients presents several advantages over the more common plant extracts, here I list the most important ones:
Firstly, there is continuous supply of fresh material, no longer dependent upon seasons or environmental conditions; next there is standardization, always high levels of consistency from batch to batch.
After that there is the extracted compounds are safe and clean, because the cells are grown under sterile and controlled conditions, thus there is no risk of pathogens or environmental contamination; then there is the high sustainability: no agricultural land is exploited, less water consumption and less waste material.
Another advantage is versatility: the cells can be induced to produce higher level of specific compounds of interest. And finally, in most of the cases, the extraction process is easier and less time-consuming.
Which specific areas of skin care is stem cell technology most suited to and why?
As mentioned, plant stem cells represent a technological tool, that can be applied to different industrial fields, not only limited to cosmetics.
Within the cosmetics area, certainly the most usual application is skin care, since consumers are always more and more aware about the safety and sustainability issues related to skin products, which are the main features of stem cell derived ingredients. Although, stem cell derived products are already used also in hair care, nail care and functional make up.
Part 2 of this interview will be published in the following edition of Cosmetics Design Europe and will explore in more detail what misconception exist about stem cell technology and what the future holds.