The Anti-Aging Properties of “Cell-Less” Mesenchymal Stem Cell Treatment

The Anti-Aging Properties of “Cell-Less” Mesenchymal Stem Cell Treatment

Aging skin goes through a number of predictable changes. Skin loses collagen and other proteins as it ages, making the skin appear dull, saggy, discolored, and wrinkly. Many of these changes are due to the sun, as it bombards the skin with harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. When the skin is exposed to the sun’s UV radiation, it produces reactive oxygen species and leads to oxidative stress. The result is of these oxygen radicals is thickened, damaged, photo-aged skin. Unfortunately, the cells that could help replenish and rejuvenate the skin—epidermal progenitor cells—may also be damaged by UV radiation. Indeed, as we age, we produce fewer and fewer of these helpful cells. Thus, the skin is left defenseless.

Researchers are looking for ways to fight back against the ravaging effects of age and sun damage on human skin. Some have reasoned that if the skin lacks epidermal progenitor cells during aging, why not try to protect or restore those cells? Consequently, some scientists have studied the effects of injecting stem cells directly into the skin (with promising results). However, many patients would like to have the same skin rejuvenation effect without painful injections. Scientists are learning that the beneficial effects of stem cells come mostly from the things that they secrete rather than the stem cells themselves. This means that doctors could potentially take the fluid that a stem cell secretes and use that liquid as a treatment, rather than injecting whole stem cells into a patient’s skin. Indeed, this is the approach that researchers recently pursued and published.

Researchers began their research by collecting epidermal progenitor cells taken from mesenchymal stem cells. These epidermal progenitor cells are the stem cells that give rise to skin. Epidermal progenitor cells also produce substances that help support natural, youthful skin growth and development. The researchers allowed these epidermal progenitor cells to produce and release substances into the surrounding solution. They then collected that solution and used it in subsequent experiments.

In the first set of experiments, researchers showed that the cell-free fluid derived from stem cells could protect skin cells from oxidative stress caused by hydrogen peroxide. Indeed, something (or things) released by the stem cells prevented skin cells from undergoing the types of changes they would endure during sun damage. In fact, the treatment apparently caused the skin to increase its own natural defenses by producing more antioxidant enzymes and increasing the creation of new collagen.

Encouraged by these results, the researchers then conducted a clinical study of 25 people between the ages of 29 and 69. They took the same cell-free fluid derived from stem cells and applied it topically to the skin of volunteers twice a day for four weeks. The treatment significantly reduced skin depressions and wrinkles. Treatment also noticeably improved the texture of the skin.

Given the apparent safety and efficacy of this cell-free treatment, researchers are likely to continue to test these treatments in larger clinical trials. The results are exciting because they offer the possibility of a topical stem cell treatment without directly injecting stem cells themselves. Indeed, patients may someday be able to use cell-free stem cell skin rejuvenation treatments at home.

 

 

Reference: Sohn, SJ. et al. (2018). Anti-aging Properties of Conditioned Media of Epidermal Progenitor Cells Derived from Mesenchymal Stem Cells. Dermatology and Therapy. 2018 Jun;8(2):229-244.

Exosomes Derived From Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Stimulate Skin Rejuvenation

Exosomes Derived From Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Stimulate Skin Rejuvenation

As we age, the appearance and structure of our skin changes. This is plain for all to see—we can usually estimate a person’s age simply by looking at their skin. Young skin is full of molecules that keep it thick, plump, and supple, such as collagen and elastin. Over time, the skin produces less and less of the substances. Consequently, aging skin is thinner and it loses its strength and elasticity. As such, the skin develops fine lines and deep wrinkles. It also becomes lax and begins to sag.

Scientists know that the quantity of collagen, elastin, and other proteins make the difference between young and old skin. Not surprisingly, doctors have been trying for decades to increase the levels of these molecules in the skin in an effort to reverse the signs of aging skin. Some approaches work for short periods of time. For example, laser and intense pulsed light treatments can stimulate the skin to produce these youthful molecules. Another approach is to directly inject collagen and other substances into the skin. The Holy Grail of skin rejuvenation, however, is to find a way to make the skin naturally produce more of these substances. Recent research suggests that stem cells could be the answer.

Researchers collected mesenchymal stem cells from umbilical cords. This tissue is removed and discarded after a woman gives birth to a baby. The scientists then collect the tiny sacs called exosomes from these umbilical cord stem cells. Exosomes are densely packed with proteins, RNA, and other important molecules that are important for growth in rejuvenation. The researchers then simply applied these exosomes to samples of human skin to see if they could influence skin rejuvenation.

The first remarkable finding of this research was that exosomes taken from umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells were absorbed into human skin. Why is this important? Because it means that if exosomes are used as a potential treatment, they can be placed on the skin rather than injected into the skin. The second remarkable finding is that exosomes, once they cross into the skin, are taken up by skin cells (human dermal fibroblasts). Once inside the skin cells, the exosomes take over the cells, in a way. They prompt the cells to produce more collagen and elastin than normal. The exosome-treated skin cells also attract other cells to the skin. We know from other work that more collagen, more elastin, and more cells within the skin leads to plumper, fuller, more elastic skin.

While clinical trials are needed to confirm this research, this work strongly suggests that the exosomes from umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to rejuvenate human skin. Perhaps most impressively, these potential skin rejuvenating exosomes can be applied topically, such as within a cream or ointment. Thus, patients could receive the potential benefits of this treatment, while avoiding painful injections. Again, more work needs to be done before this research becomes a routine treatment, but the results are quite promising.

 

 

Reference: Kim, YJ. et al. (2017). Exosomes derived from human umbilical cord blood mesenchymal stem cells stimulate rejuvenation of human skin. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. 2017 Nov 18;493(2):1102-1108.

Stem Cells May Help with Aging-Related Neurodegenerative Disease

Stem Cells May Help with Aging-Related Neurodegenerative Disease

Given the promising results that stem cells have shown for therapies against brain disease and disorders, researchers have reasoned that stem cells could also be useful for age-related neurodegenerative disease and stroke. Aging indeed is related to several of the physiological changes that occur in the brains of those who suffer from neurodegenerative disorders. A recent review published in Ageing Research and Reviews outlines the ways stem cells may be used for cell-based therapies in stroke and neurodegeneration, as well as the benefits and limitations of stem cell approaches to these pathological conditions.

According to the authors, stem cells can be used to help with a number of the physiological marks of neurodegeneration. Loss of neurons and synapses is one of the more direct ways that stem cells can potentially help. By replacing these neural elements, stem cells can potentially reverse the impact of their loss. These functions may include both motor and cognitive aspects.

In addition to the loss of cell bodies and neural gray matter, the white matter of the brain is also affected by aging. The axons that connect cells to one another lose their plasticity and ability to repair themselves over time. These types of dysfunctions represent other ways that stem cells may be able to help with age-related neurodegenerative disorders.

Other problematic aspects of aging and associated neuropathologies are oxidative stress and misfolded proteins. While there has been some research to suggest that stem cells may be relevant for these issues, more research is needed to understand how stem cells may be able to help with neurodegeneration that results from these features that are often associated with aging. While the role of stem cells may be clearer when it comes to other aspects of neurodegeneration, future research will also help us understand how we can best apply this knowledge to help those suffering from neurodegenerative disease – age-related and otherwise.

Learn more about our stem cell therapy for age management here.

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