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Plant Stem Cells
Humans have always been looking for ways to prolong youth and maintain beauty. Why else would many of our myths and legends, such as the fountain of youth, revolve around such topics? In the past, people from just about any culture tried anything that allegedly made their skin beautiful, even if they did not quite understand how it worked. Ancient Egyptians for example used a combination of oats and milk, both of which help with exfoliation, to keep their skin looking young. Honey, being a natural humectant and exfoliant, was used to keep skin hydrated, clear, and smooth. Pistachios, too, with their rich carotenoids and phytochemical content was used to prevent the damaging effects of the sun and prevent wrinkles among women in the Middle East.
Today, people are luckier as modern science has found ways to make concentrated and efficient beauty products that come conveniently packaged. Laboratories now can extract and purify the active ingredients in plants and deliver potent doses that can give the best results. But despite all the advantages of modern science, the question that most beauty companies ask is: what do consumers want?
In the past, the major concern of women was keeping aging at bay. A lot of products focused on preventing or minimizing wrinkles. These days, preventing signs of aging is still at the center of the skin care industry. However, newer generations want more than just simple anti-wrinkle creams. Many companies now have come up with more advanced products that target other skin problems as well.
Aside from anti-wrinkle creams, toning products have also taken center stage. It’s not enough to have smooth skin, it’s essential to have it even and clear, too. This increased awareness of the beauty of evenly toned skin has unleashed a flurry of toning, lightening, and whitening products.
Furthermore, having firm skin is also essential in keeping oneself looking young. Women now look at products that prevent skin from sagging, preventing the alteration of the face’s natural contours. Many of these products contain substances that preserve the protein structures that keep skin firm.
The increasing the demand for wrinkle-free, evenly toned and firm skin has led to the development of numerous products and procedures to attain society’s idea of attractiveness. Among these include Botox injections, diamond peel, laser treatments and a plethora of skin care creams. However, one cannot deny the cost and side effects of these treatments. Because of these setbacks, scientists continue to search for more effective, safer, environmentally friendly, and affordable means of achieving beautiful skin.One of the latest breakthroughs in skin care research that promises to have all these advantages is plant stem cells.
The Potentials of Plant Stem Cells
A stem cell is basically an undifferentiated cell which usually divides to form more specialized cells that have specific functions. In plants, these stem cells are called meristematic cells. These special cells can later on differentiate into any type of cell, depending on the need of the plant organism. This ability to morph is of great importance to many medical and skin care researchers.
So how are plant stem cells harvested? Initially, the plant is wounded. Once this happens, it secretes hormones which stimulate the formation of a callus around the injured area. Inside this callus, the cells revert from their task-specific state into neutral cells that can later on transform into other types of cells. This is called totipotency, or the capacity of a cell to give rise to any kind of tissue of its organism. Human cells on the other hand exhibit multipotency, meaning cells will divide to form more specialized but only of a specific organ. For example, multipotent stem cells of the liver will give rise to liver cells only or multipotent blood cells will give rise to red blood cells or platelets only. Thus the repairing capabilities of human cells are limited.
Once the meristematic cells are activated, they are cultured so that their phenylpropanoid content is increased greatly. Phenylpropanoids are substances found all throughout the plant kingdom and have an infinite function in plant biology, including tissue repair. They’re also responsible for UV protection and protection from pathogens. The use of meristematic cells has allowed researchers and companies to create more potent skin care products and have better control over the quality and safety.
Also, this technology has infinite medical potential especially in the repair of damaged tissues, particularly those in the heart and nerves, tissues that are notoriously difficult to repair. Once applied to human skin, it stimulates the skin to rejuvenate itself. In addition, it interacts with other substances like proteins and minerals that enhance its capability to induce repair and rejuvenation of skin.
The idea of using meristematic stem cells has been around for centuries but it is only now that we have the technology refine it. Three of the most important plants that show great promise include edelweiss, sea fennel, and gardenia.
Edelweiss is noted to be a very sturdy plant able to withstand the extreme climate of mountains. It produces many phytochemicals such as beta sitosterol and leontopodic acids, which have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. In addition, edelweiss extracts are known to prevent wrinkles by inhibiting enzymes that break down skin collagen.
Sea fennel is also another plant noted for its anti-aging properties. It contains peptides or small protein units that prevent the formation of facial spider veins and skin blemishes. And because these peptides are small they easily penetrate the skin. Today, sea fennel powder is widely used to achieve clear and evenly toned skin.
Gardenia has long been used as a medicinal plant particularly for diseases such as arthritis and hypertension. Today, it has shown promising results as a modulator of inflammatory cells. It is also known to aid in maintaining firmness, enhancing facial contours, and promoting moisture retention in the skin.
Unlike human stem cells, the use of plant stem cells is ethical.
Furthermore, it is a more eco-friendly way of producing skin care products. Plants are not killed, and though they are initially wounded the host plant can easily repair the damage. And because these cells can be easily cultured, only a small land area is necessary for growing for plant stem cell harvesting.
With all the benefits plant stem cells have to offer, it won’t be a surprise if it becomes the center of skin care in the future. Humans have been using plants for beauty products for centuries, but with plant stem cells, we may truly be able to achieve skin care products of unparalleled efficiency and benefit.