Skin stem cell rhythms, Nobel prize winning lies, & swindles


According to a recent study, epidermal stem cells do not operate continuously to renew skin cells , but instead cycle between dormancy and activation. Turns out that these cells have their own internal clock genes that oscillate through day-night cycles. These rhythms assure that during the day, when sun exposure can lead to DNA damage (oncogenesis), there are far fewer cell divisions than at night when the danger has passed.  If you interfere with these clock genes it can lead to stem cell arrhythmia, premature skin aging, and the development of skin cancers. These studies were done in mice, so it may not be exactly the same in humans. But we do know that humans share these clock genes.

This adds further evidence to the notion of sleep (dark cycle behaviors) being a time of skin renewal. Products that target regenerative epidermal pathways might do well to keep this in mind, providing maximum regenerative ingredient at night, and focus more on prevention of further damage (e.g. sunblocks, antioxidants) during the day.  We will talk about this more in a post about DNA repair enzymes.


There are false claims, and then there are false associations.  We have noted a trend in the anti-aging products world toward making false associations about products being sold by trying to fool buyers into thinking that their science is so mainstream and legitimate that it has even been awarded a Nobel prize.  *Here is one example now on display at TIA:

…which then links to a post about Renovage with a glowing review. Available for sale on that same site. Doesn’t that banner sound like Teprenone won a Nobel prize?
Be assured, it didn’t. Note even close. It is an anti-ulcer drug that induces primitive heat shock proteins, not approved in the U.S., and has no actual demonstrated connection to telomeres. It’s main claim to fame is its ability to stimulate gastric cells to exude a lot of mucous.
Hypothesis is not proof. So here is how they build their logic.  They (non-scientists) say is has something to do with telomeres  (it doesn’t) which is an important Nobel level science discovery. If it it is even remotely connected, then is it somehow OK to say that that drug is Nobel prize winning?  This is called an association fallacy.
“An association fallacy is an inductive informal fallacy of the type hasty generalization or red herring which asserts that qualities of one thing are inherently qualities of another, merely by an irrelevant association. The two types are sometimes referred to as guilt by association and honor by association. Association fallacies are a special case of red herring, and can be based on an appeal to emotion.”
  • RESPECT TRUTHFULNESS (deception objection)
    • Never directly intend to deceive
    • Never use simply untrue advertising
    • Do not distort the truth by implying things that are not so or withholding relevant facts
Another example that comes to mind is Epidermal Growth Factor. Nobel prize winning work? For it’s cosmetic use? No. Dr. Stanley Cohen was a seminal pioneer in the biochemistry of growth factors and cellular communications. It was the role of EGF receptor blocking in fighting cancer that tipped the scale for a Nobel prize.  Nothing to do with cosmetic effects.  Yet we see this same “Nobel Prize Winning” fallacy at work to sell that substance as well.
Substances don’t win Nobel prizes. Scientists do, after a long career in a purposeful direction.  Scientists work at science. Unscrupulous marketers exploit that work for their own profit, and cheapen it.
Let’s respect the integrity of the scientific process by halting the perversion of the “Nobel prize winning…” label by unscrupulous marketeers.
* (thanks to our reader Annie for bringing this to our attention)


Part of our mission at BFT is to point out contrasts.  Below are two brief stories in the news today. One reflects the promise and hope of stem cells in reversing aging. The other reflects a tendency for some unscrupulous persons to  profit from leading edge science through fraud, lies, and victimization.

Stem cells and aging

“Researchers at the University of Helsinki are finding more clues to understanding the aging process. A fresh study, which sheds new light on what happens in the body as we age, is published in the latest issue of Cell Metabolism out on Wednesday.

Focused on aging-related tissue degeneration, Anu Wartiovaara’s research group studied mice exhibiting early signs of aging: thinning skin, graying hair, balding, osteoporosis and anemia.

Scientists provided evidence that mitochondrial mutation can adversely impact cell function. To combat the symptoms of old age, researchers used antioxidant treatments to improve stem cell function. Wartiovaara, however, emphasises that breakthroughs with mice may not necessarily translate to humans.

‘But we can say that antioxidants affect stem cell function,’ she explains, adding that more research is necessary before prescribing antioxidants to slow the hands of time. ”

Men charged with selling miracle stem-cell cures to terminally ill patients

Four men allegedly conned more than $1.5M out of terminally ill patients by hawking miracle stem-cell cures, Reuters reported.

Three men were arrested and another is on the run, the FBI reported, after all four were charged with 39 counts of mail fraud and illegally manufacturing, distributing and selling stem cells and related procedures. The group launched the three-year scam in March 2007, allegedly working together to convince hopeless patients to undergo illegal procedures they promised would treat “incurable diseases,” according to the FBI. “This investigation identified a scheme whereby the suffering and hopes of victims in extreme medical need were used and manipulated for personal profit. “The predatory and opportunistic nature of the crimes alleged in this indictment mirrors images from science fiction.”

Some might question this juxtaposition: what does it have to do with skin care?  It may be true that fewer people die of being defrauded by skin care products than systemic therapeutics.  But the principles are the same, whether it is your life at stake or just your hard earned money.
Truth matters.  Ethics matter.


  1. miriam says:

    While the truth is not always black and white, there is one sure way to know when you have an enemy of the truth out there. It’s when they are confronted with the truth and they still blather on with their lies. Like the truth in aging people when you guys pointed out what Renovage really is. Didn’t slow them down a bit. I assume they still read you 10 times a day? Some people would sell their mothers for a buck.

  2. rhondamac says:

    Awesome work. Thanks for taking time from your schedules to educate us about the excesses of an industry with few controls (and even fewer watchdogs). You can be the Ralph Nader of cosmetics. I’m making this a daily reading must.

  3. shellygum says:

    Love your site, brave speakers of truth. While you are at it, could you take on the tendency of the industry to use nothing but airbrushed models. What a joke. Do they really think we don’t know how stupid they think we are?

  4. lillian says:

    If you want to see some really outlandish claims and sleazy advertising tricks go look at any Lifecell ad or web page (there are hundreds). Somebody must be buying this stuff. Deceptive advertising works, that’s why you see so much of it.

  5. CeliaF says:

    You have opened my eyes about the whole sleazy marketing thing in cosmetics. I thought it was just the makers, but seems like the retailers just play along or even play up the bad science. You should do more reviews of the online marketers. Be nice to have a list of good/bad sources of info. Who can you trust?

  6. DrVanessa says:

    I am also a medical professional (dermatologist) and like you chaps have become increasingly aware of the level of ignorance, deceit, and downright quackery in the world of skin care. Both in terms of the purported evidence base or science (low credibility) and marketing (no or negative credibility). More and more the two seem to be indistinguishable. I appreciate your mission here, and wish you well. I expect it is an uphill battle, as junk science seems to be winning the hearts and minds of the skin care treatment consuming public. Is is good to have choices, and there are indeed tens of thousands of them, in every category. But when 98% or more are shamelessly devoid of scientific merit, then it suggests that the good guys have already lost this battle. Given all that, do you have a strategy to overcome the tremendous odds against you? What can you, and others who want to elevate the “standard of care”, do to overcome the trend toward pseudoscience? Would you favor more regulation, at least enough to eliminate the worst offenders?

    • drjohn says:

      Hi DrV. Welcome. That is a really tough question. We were actually attracted to this particular corner of medicine because of the translational expediency– you can get an innovative product from the lab to the marketplace in far less time than it takes with other pharma-regulated therapeutics based on leading edge cell biology. Although we find it still takes several years to do things right, even in a regulatory light environment. So, we entered this saucer eyed and optimistic,, raring to make our contribution. How naive! What we were not prepared for is the degree to which the marketplace discounts the value of science, other than borrowing whatever concepts and buzzwords it wants to sell products. Not to say there isn’t real science going on –in fact there is an explosion of knowledge going on in cell biology that holds all sorts of promise to the world of skin health, anti-aging, and skin aesthetics. We haven’t even had much chance to get around to discussing them here, because we have been gobsmacked by all the nonsense and the truly innovative ways in which non-truths are dispensed. It would surprise us if any of this ever gets any attention, because it is so hard for the average consumer to sort the sheep from goats. Everybody is an expert, and every opinion is just as valid as everyone else’s, because it is not based on evidence anyway. It’s based on less substantive constructs such as anecdotal reviews. The reviews are given by the people then selling you the products. Things you could never get away with in medicine. But then we have found that medical training is not valued here; in fact there is a level of disdain (even hostility) to anyone claiming to know something they (internet hawkers) don’t know. Who are the worst offenders? Sometimes I think it is those who masquerade as scientists, in order to try to make themselves credible, when they lack any real background or training. I don’t expect marketers to know any better (not a profession known for its ethical underpinnings). But when someone who has never taken a university level course in biochemistry is trying to mimic the clothing and language of science, it grates. Even worse I suppose is the trained medical professional who has rented out his body for a few hours to endorse some crap that is all lies and deception. I’m sure you have encountered some of those in your own career. I have been told that there must be some special place in hell where such medical colleagues/brethren eventually end up.

  7. Jane says:

    Hello Drs, thank you so much for the valuable information you provide on this website. I am an avid reader and user of AnteAge MD. I also use Neova’s DNA Total Repair at night. I would very much like to hear you thoughts on the efficacy of topically applied DNA repair enzymes for the skin. Thank you again.

    • drjohn says:

      Hi Jane, we like DNA repair strategies, but the timing is critical. It should be applied during the day, not at night. The quality studies show that DNA damage occurs at the time of UV light exposure, and there is a narrow window for repair.It is likely way too late to repair damage done 8 hours ago. A rational approach would be to combine DNA repair with broad spectrum UV blockers for application whenever exposed to sunlight. Reapply every few hours if exposed for a good chunk of time. We are working on just such a product for release this summer. At night, you need a different strategy. Also – to get repair enzymes into cells where DNA resides (across cell and nuclear barriers) is tricky and requires nanolipid carriers.

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