Lifeline: Reviewed and Sold Short. (An anti-aging approach to avoiding penny stock ruin) UPDATED & REVISED |

Lifeline: Reviewed and Sold Short. (An anti-aging approach to avoiding penny stock ruin) UPDATED & REVISED

You are thinking “I thought this was a skin care science site; why are you telling me about financials of penny stocks when I want to hear about wrinkle creams?”

The answer is this – sometimes skin care products are an afterthought to a company engaged in legitimate science. An add-on, a “bastard child”. This might happen for all sorts of reasons, including financial ones. I think this company and its’ products provide us an illustration of that sort of “second thought” approach to the skin biz.

The lifeline skin care products are created by a company called “international stem cell corporation” (ISCO) which has been around a long time. I believe they have burned through a lot of investor money, and never made any, and so they decided skin care  was good biz to be in. I’m not faulting them.  But I think their genesis story has led them down a path that doesn’t quite add up for me. Which I why I am left scratching my head about the direction they take scientifically.

We will start with the financials. (skip this if you hate numbers)



Financial Statements for INTERNATIONAL STEM CELL CORP (ISCO)  Year over year, International Stem Cell Corporation has seen their bottom line shrink from a loss of $8.5M to an even larger loss of $12.7M despite an increase in revenues from $1.1M to $1.6M. An increase in the percentage of sales devoted to SGA costs from 477.79% to 489.62% was a key component in the falling bottom line in the face of rising revenues. International Stem Cell Corporation’s Quarterly Revenues

International Stem Cell Corporation had 3rd quarter 2011 revenues of $842.1K. This missed the $1.8M estimate of the one analyst following the company. This was -24.4% below the prior year’s 3rd quarter results.  Their burn rate exceeds this amount by a considerable margin. They are bleeding out at the rate of $12M annually. Last balance sheet I could find (2010) showed only about $6M in cash. They must have had more investment to make up the difference.  Not looking too good, even as penny stocks go.


Now to be clear, there is no shame in being a start up with negative cash flow. All great companies have to start somewhere. But in this case, you wonder whether key trends in the underlying (stem cell) science has punched a hole in their balloon. More on that later. Could this be why they decided the skin trade was worth a try? Is this a hail Mary pass with seconds left in the 4th quarter and no timeouts?

As to their science, first let me emphasize this this is clearly a science-based organization. Not one of the “make believe” science companies that seem to proliferate, and that we have written about often. This company has real M.D.’s and PhD’s and bench scientists. Their science makes logical sense, and fits know scientific constructs. They have published 4 papers in scientific journals. However, none of them have anything to do with skin applications. But their stem cell work is legitimate, and they have a lot of credibility with me to start with.

They use a type of stem cell called “parthenogenetic stem cells”. They call them non-embryonic, as they are not fertilized by sperm, but instead are induced to become embryo-like using lab procedures. The National Institutes of Health, and other US science agencies consider them to be embryos. I am not going to decide for you whether this is or is not an embryo, with all the ethical issues that brings up. What I am going to say instead is that I believe the whole concept of parthenogenetic stem cells is a tad stale in the current fast moving world of stem cell biology. It is predicated on the notion that it is better for a stem cell to be more pluripotent than the average (let’s say mesenchymal) stem cell. That notion had its day, but in the world of anti-aging science, and skin rejuvenation in particular, it has long been surpassed. It turns out that cells, including stem cells, can be induced to de-differentiate (get stemier, or more embryo-like). These days, in the lab, you can take a skin cell and make a stem cell out of it. On the scale that goes from pluripotent (can become any kind of cell) to committed (differentiated) cell, it is quite possible to move both ways. When humans first did this in the lab (just a couple years ago – we call them induced pluripotent cells) they thought they were inventing something new. Turns out they were just discovering something that our bodies already do. Cells that have been committed to a particular fate (e.g. epithelial skin cells) can be coaxed back into the mesenchymal cells from which they derived (“epithelial-mesenchymal transition”). In fact, there are stem cells that snuggle up to committed (differentiated) cells and induce them to de-differentiate naturally (see our post about this). We have long since figured out that differentiation is a two way street. As a result of these discoveries, the whole parthenogenetic thing just doesn’t make much sense in the brave new world of stem cells

However, they can make the argument that for immune rejection reasons, parthenogenetic stem cells are superior to e.g. induced pluripotent stem cells. They claim 50 cells lines of their cells would make for compatible transplantable stem cells for every known human immune profile. That may be, and it may confer advantages when you talk about stem cell transplants or tissues grown from stem cells in the lab for implantation. However, this has nothing to do with skin applications in the cosmeceutical realm. Why? Because those uses do not involve implantation of cells. If cells were being implanted the products would be regulated not as cosmetics but as biologic devices.

The legitimate role of stem cells in cosmeceuticals is to act as a farm for human biochemicals that are involved with healing and regeneration. No immune problems (or a host of other worries) as there would be with someone else’s cells entering your body. This is, in fact, how ISCO makes in Lifeline products’ key ingredients.

Leap of Logic Required

So here is where we find the logical leap I have trouble making. If you are not transplanting cells (ISCO’s original and core business plan) then the logic of parthenogenetic stem cells for anti-aging skin care really doesn’t hold. No advantage whatsoever. Why do we need embryonic stem cells (fertilized or not) to farm cytokines, growth factors, and other skin affecting chemicals in the lab? This company presents no clear rationale. And if you thing about it teleologically, you might ask what is the role of an embryo in wound healing? As a stem cell, just because you can differentiate into lots of different cell types does not make you an expert in skin healing or rejuvenation. There are other stem cells more suited to the task, because their physiologic function is to repair damage, not to make babies. Even fibroblasts make more sense, although they depend heavily on signals from other sources.

Lifeline talks all about the nature of the stem cells on their web site but presents no arguments anywhere as to why parthenogenetic stem cells in particular would benefit skin as a unique organ. Nothing about anti-aging cell biology either. It seems like they have invested many millions in the idea of parthenogenetic stem cells, and decided cosmeceuticals was a market they wanted (needed) to be in, as they don’t seem to have much else in the near term pipeline. A financial decision, not a scientific one.

But so what, if the products work, right? When I start to try to answer the question of do their products work (or should they work, based on a cohesive scientific hypothesis with some evidence to back it up), I become instantly frustrated.  Their web site is very poorly organized. They make claims, to be sure: “…improved appearance and depth of fine lines and wrinkles, significantly reduced damage from free-radicals, greater skin elasticity, brighter and more well hydrated skin. “ But I cannot find any evidence from clinical trials, or bench science, and I really did look hard. The only pictures they present look heavily Photoshopped. I find lots of talk about basic stem cell science, but then no specifics about how they apply it to skin rejuvenation. I cannot even find an ingredients list on the site. Reading between the lines on their blog page, I am led to assume that they are growing these cells in culture and extracting conditioned media. It says they “patented a process to extract various bioactive growth factors, peptides and enzymes from these PSC”. However, a quick search of the patent database shows 4 patents granted or applied, none dealing with such a process. But let’s assume they did so, and that is how they derive an active ingredient. If it is protected by patent, they surely they could tell us about it and what it accomplishes without worry.

Remember Amatokin?

This is the company that originally gave stem cells dermatologic products a bad reputation by claiming a secret stem cell ingredient and then sold it like snake oil, with tales of high security facility somewhere in Russia, surrounded by barbed wire. BTW I always assumed the facility might be real, but probably a prison, with some not yet reformed bunco artists as marketers of nonsense. Amatokin is still sold, still pretending to have something to do with stem cells. But look at the ingredients — not a stem cell, cytokine, or any such thing in sight. No actual stem cells used in the making of this product.  The labeling no longer claims stem cell derivatives but now instead says “stimulates your own stem cells”. Right. Proof please? Anyway, in another part of their blog these ISCO Lifeline guys give a flattering nod to Amatokin (clueless warning #1- go look at their actual ingredients guys). And they do so without snickering or at least winking and nodding. Very strange. Can they not tell the difference? What’s the story there? Are there some ex-Amatokin parolees on the marketing staff?

I have another issue. They claim that their recently released products are “the first human stem cell products” to reach the market. Not true by a mile. I participated in a product three years ago, and it certainly wasn’t the first. More marketing hype? Or do they really not know what is out there? (clueless warning #2).

OK. So let’s just say they are not very discerning, but still are very clever scientists who just need some help with their market research and web site to make their own science message a bit clearer. And to perhaps distance themselves from the “behind barbed wire” guys. So, what about the science they do talk about on their web site?

They also make some very obvious science gaffes like “Only parthenogenetic and embryonic stem cells possess enough telomerase to make them effectively immortal.” Well, that is simply not true. Every human cell possesses the telomerase gene. Some organs (including skin) express telomerase (make it in the cell), most don’t, unless prompted to by a wake up chemical or event. Human cancer cells of all sorts make a lot of it, and they can be immortal (e.g. HeLa cells).

So, bottom line, I have no idea whether the products work, because they haven’t provided on their web page (or in a journal article) a clear rationale that would allow one to judge the soundness of the translational (lab–>clinical) science, nor foundational evidence showing that it works. The background science is interesting, yes. But what does it have to do with skin care, and anti-aging? They don’t clearly say, and I find the whole rationale for parthenogenetic stem cells as a pathway to skin rejuvenation to be lacking sound logical rationale. Other than perhaps rescuing a company from financial ruin. I doubt that the skin trade alone is going to rescue them, however, with their current burn rate. Product efficacy aside, this company is a risky bet.

If someone can provide more information, I would be happy to revisit this topic. I really want this product to work!


UPDATE 2/8/2012 


The parent company for Lifeline, ISCO, saw a strong increase in selling activity of it’s stock today, and the stock price dropped another 8.33% to $0.44 per share. I don’t have any non-public information, but I don’t think this has anything to do with recent events but rather reflects the very dire straights of this company based on financial fundamentals. The Hail Mary of jumping into cosmeceuticals as an afterthought is not going to alter that trajectory.  Only thing that might help would be to slash the burn rate (expenditures) significantly. Of note, they don’t even want to market their skin care line themselves, so do so through middlemen. Again, this has nothing to do with whether the products work or how they compare to others in the stem cell realm.  But I do wonder whether this company is going to be around long.  Clearly some folks who own the stock are bailing out, showing their lack of confidence at this stage.

 UPDATE 2/11/2012 

I had a very helpful telephone conversation with Simon Craw, PhD, of ISCO yesterday. I found him to be very helpful, straightforward, and spin-free. Refreshing. I must say, he represented his company very well. Nice chap, too.

After our conversation, Dr. Craw kindly sent me an 8 page glossy piece by e-mail. I will interweave the two sources of information. The brochure was about the company, parthenogenetic stem cells, and then had a small section (page 6-7) on Lifeline Skin Care.  Page 6 is an ad, page 7 talks about clinical studies. Thus far, this is the only data I have seen.


We are going to take a deep dive into scientific constructs here that will probably not be of interest to most of our readers. We invite you to skip this section.

The brochure  gives the results of an 8-week study of the products (a day and night serum) with measurements of visual skin changes, and a biopsy study looking at gene expression levels for elastin, collagen, and three growth factor families.

The clinical study looks industry standard in construct, but there was no mention anywhere of how many subjects. This shows the report was not done by a clinical scientist, as this is always a key factor. The end points were skin hydration, elasticity, brightness, and fine/coarse lines. Excellent results for all.

A biopsy study examined human fibroblasts in culture. The description said that the biopsies were “taken from subjects”. It is not clear whether this was the same subjects as the study above. If so, it didn’t mention whether the biopsies were taken before or after 8 weeks of using the product.

Gene expression levels of elastin, collagen, and several growth factor families were measured after treatment with HSC-X (they never explained what that was, but I presume it is an extract of parthenogenetic stem cells, which they talk about elsewhere).

Fibroblasts respond to a variety of growth factors, cytokines and pro-inflammatory mediators. So, the findings are not in the least surprising, as I understand that the extract contains a number of representatives of several growth factor families. Genes for elastin, collagen, and several key growth factors are upregulated.  This experiment really just establishes that indeed there are growth factors in HSC-X.  Nothing more there that I can see.

But, here is where I get confused. There is no clear rationale for doing what amounts to a stimulation test in fibroblasts from subjects who had already been exposed to HSC-X for 8 weeks. Why not just use fibroblasts from a different uuntreated)  source? Unless they were looking for some epigenetic events … cell memory for exposure to HSC-X?  An epigenetic trait is a stably heritable phenotype resulting from chromosomal changes without alterations in the DNA sequence. It’s all about cellular memory. If that was the purpose of the experiment, it is very advanced stuff, although could have used some additional measures.  Otherwise, I just don’t quite get the experimental design.


OK, so let’s put all this into some context. As I said before, these guys are real scientists, and believe in the same principles we uphold here every day –e.g. pursuing facts, and truth, as far as we can know it, given the limits of our knowledge in science.

I actually like this company and their work on several fronts. The science is leading edge, and in many ways parallels our own work. I suppose that makes it harder to be objective, but then we never claimed to be entirely objective. We all have our biases. We disclose our “potential conflicts” like all good scientists, and let others judge whether our opinions have any validity or not.  So, you may also be curious as to how we can like our competition?  Again, as scientist-entrepreneurs, we have some profit motive in there somewhere, but we have other principles that we hold more important. Integrity is one of them. Dr. Craw can be my colleague and my competitor in the same breath. Because he is steeped in the same traditions I am, easily discerned in a brief conversation, I can trust him.  If we are on different sides of the scrimmage line right now from a commercial or institutional viewpoint, it doesn’t bother me a bit. Never has. Because we know we are working ultimately for a higher cause than either of the commercial entities that employ us. (Although I am jealous that he probably gets paid by his). Besides, competition in science is good (as long as we hold to those basic principles).

And remember, barefacedtruth is not about us, or our companies. It is about setting a standard for scientific integrity in the world of antiaging cosmeceuticals, and doggedly pursuing the bad guys who distort science and make it unrecognizable.

We are not here to endorse specific products, even our own. So I am not going to tell you to rush out and buy anything. But I can give my opinion as to the validity of the science. Which I just did. This stuff is real. We can even recommend it.

Dr. Craw was very open in explaining that they only work with parthenogenetic stem cells, viewing it as their technology platform, and did not have any evidence that it was different or better than other stem cell types in terms of cytokine farming.  That ties up that loose thread.

Dr. Craw informed me that they did hire a top marketing person mid-2011. I still do have issues with market execution (I won’t do a laundry list), and dearly wish they would distance themselves from Amatokin and stop saying they were the first to market. Sometimes in any company you have to restrain people who tend to say things that come back to bite. And I still have grave doubts about the long range financial condition of ISCO, given what I observe about the market for antiaging skin care and their publicly reported financials. But since our mission here is not stock picking, or management consulting, we can leave that aside, and wish Dr. Craw and his associates at ISCO a safe and prosperous journey.


  1. amygal says:

    This is your best article yet. I appreciate how you give us all that context, telling us about the companies, the science, the people, and the products (good and bad). Really helps me to see how the industry works. Have you thought about writing a book on the industry? Bet it would be a bestseller. Keep up the great work.

  2. Erg says:

    Thanks so much for reviewing this line.

    • drjohn says:

      Thanks for suggesting it.

      • Jina says:

        I was just going to suggest writing a book Drs as I was reading Randytwo’s post and I am sure there are worse stories to be told. I spent an afternoon at a book store and came home empty-handed. I would hope you can suggest some interesting reading about nutrition. I believe feeding our bodies and fueling our mitochondria is half the work before we begin to apply lotions. A lot of interesting diets such as paleo and raw diets. It’s all very confusing.

  3. Charlie says:

    Your post is completely brainless. Lifeline Cell Technology is an entirely different company who have nothing to do with any of the science or skin care products mentioned in this article. Check out verses

    • drjohn says:

      Charlie, You said the post was brainless, but the company’s divisional confusion you pointed out was in a reader comment, not in the post. (Both BTW are divisions of ISCO).May I assume you thought it was the comment that was brainless, not the post itself?
      Thanks, DrJohn at

      I sent the above to Charlie at the e-mail address he gave, but it bounced right back. No such address. Hope he comes back to answer.

      • Charlie says:

        Sorry for any confusion. The main article was informative and well researched.

        The reader’s comment incorrectly associated your article with Lifeline Cell Technologies products, which I believe is a completely different subsidiary of ISCO from Lifeline Skin Care. I wanted to point out this minor folly.

        • drjohn says:

          Thanks, Charlie. Corrections duly noted. Lifeline Cell Technologies products and Lifeline Skin Care are two different divisions of ISCO.

  4. lyonella says:

    Hmm.. add some “light refracting nanospheres” and they could at least salvage it and market it as “changes the appearance of the skin in 60 seconds”!! Oh wait.. someone with a “Life” name already did that. : (

    • drjohn says:

      Yeah, they could have chosen a better name. Lifeline skin care doesn’t evoke much viscerally. Makes me think of those donut type life preservers.

      • lyonella says:

        Or as in “terminal”. EEK..

        Isnt “LifeLine” also one of those “Help! Ive fallen and I cant get up!” devices?
        Could explain why their bottom line has fallen too.

        • drjohn says:

          Sounds like a great invention. If your stocks go below a critical value, the paramedics show up to put you on life support. I might be able to use that!

  5. DragoN says:

    “The end points were skin hydration, elasticity, brightness, and fine/coarse lines. Excellent results for all.”
    Define excellent? Details…
    What else was present in the cream/ lotion?

    • JC says:

      I would be grateful if you would advise me whether the product contains any ingredients which are known to cause allergic reaction?

      • drjohn says:

        Hi JC, The thing about allergies is that they relate not just to the product, but to the person using it. Somebody can be allergic to just about anything, but it can be unique to them. There are “common” allergens (like pollens) and toxins — and this product has none of those. So, no reason to worry ahead of time (but that is not a guarantee, for this or for any product). In addition to allergic reactions, there are substances that have a high incidence of causing sensitivity reactions. Again, not much here to worry about, although I have heard of several instances of users who developed very red cheeks after using, and prolonged stinging. Not sure what that might be – maybe a sensitivity reaction. Hard to tell. Hope this helps.

  6. JC says:

    Thank you for your prompt response, I have used the product during the past few days but my face developed chronic reaction to it, the skin flared up with small bumps all over my face and became very itchy. I am not sure what it is as I don’t usually get allergic to skincream, I very much hoped that I could continue to use this, but the face reaction appeared to be getting worse, so much so that I need to give this up. this could be my own unique situation.

    • drjohn says:

      JC, red and itchy with bumps sure sounds like an allergic reaction. I agree you need to stop and find something else. I’ll see if I can get the others I know who have had problems to comment.

    • rileygirl says:

      I am one of the users that is having red cheeks. I had a few days where my cheeks burned (stung) after applying the Lifeline, but then that stopped. The red cheeks continue and I am taking a break for the moment. Once everything calms down, I will try again.

      JC, have you used anything different (cleanser, sunscreen) topically, or ingested anything different that could have caused the face reaction other than the Lifeline? (And were your bumps/itching confined to the face only?)

      • drjohn says:

        Good questions, rileygirl. As you allude to, sometimes topicals are coincidental or innocent bystanders in an allergic reaction to something else. One quick test of sensitivity I sometimes do is to put a very small amount of e.g. face cream on the crease of skin at the inner side of the elbow. This is a particularly sensitive area for allergic reactions. It’s not definitive (i.e. not 100%, just mildly suggestive). And remember, you can have redness & burning from things other than allergies (e.g. toxic reactions).

        • JC says:

          No, I am not using anything new apart from the cream, but I was hoping that once the reaction subsided, I could use this again. I am seeing acne like small bumps with pus on the face, I have stopped using the cream for a day, the skin does not itch anymore but it is now crusty with small bumps. I only have the reaction on the face and around my neck where I have applied the cream. To eliminate any doubt, I would do the sensitivity test on my arm and see. Thank you Drjohn and Rileygirl. Rileygirl, can you update us once you start trying again?

          • drjohn says:

            Pustular itchy rashes suggest dermatitis. Possibly the inflammation disrupted the skin barrier and allowed in some bacteria. You may want to see a physician who might suggest an antibiotic.

  7. JC says:

    Thank you Drjohn,

    I have seen you mentioned in your various posts that the product that you two are working on will be ready for launch soon. When will that be? I trust that you have done tests on sensitivity too?

    • drjohn says:

      Hi JC, No reactions in either of our clinical trials (63 subjects). But that doesn’t mean that there will never be any – remember, anybody can be allergic (or sensitive) to something, and some people are more prone that others to become sensitized.

  8. Dee Sallows says:

    I really thank you for this articulate and informative article.
    I am a baby boomer.
    This does not mean that I will buy snake oil.
    How wonderful it is to see signs of intelligent life in an area of deceit.
    Again, thankyou !!!!!

  9. I own a high-end skin care center and use a product for specific clients named ReLuma. Sounds very similar in terms of growth factors, cytokines, etc. We have had marvelous results that become apparent at around the 45 day mark and simply continue. I NEVER use this product – or ANY Epidermal Growth product – on anyone with a history of skin cancers. That just doesn’t seem wise in my mind. Several clients (including myself) had a rugged first month experiencing pustules and classic white heads, However, once the skin passed that 30 day mark we’ve never seen any additional problems. My read is that it is SO active that the skin needs to adjust. I don’t consider that an allergic reaction. Would love more updates on this and any other products similarly formulated.

  10. olio says:

    Fwiw, this skin creme has been pushed by John Mauldin more than once in his investment letters (as an aside at the end of the letters, specifically the creme as a product he endorses, NOT ISCO as a company investment).

    I only mention it because his letters go out via email to > 1 million “subscribers” apparently. And his letters ARE great btw.

    Thanks for the very in-depth article!

    • drjohn says:

      He was the exclusive or semi-exclusive “distributor” at the beginning of their marketing efforts, and was responsible for the bulk of Lifeline sales early on. They are more diversified across channels now. But this goes goes to the show the power of mailing lists, and “celebrity” endorsements (I wonder if Mr. Mauldin has a personal testimonial). You would think a financial guy wouldn’t hold as much sway as, say, a real housewife of OC?. Just think .. Who reads investment newsletters? Men. (They even recently had a promo where the gave away a dozen golf balls as a sales incentive. Who golfs? Men). Who uses skin care products? Mainly women. So are these wealthy investor-type guys are buying it for their wives as a present? Guilt gift for spending so much time on the links? You gotta love this marketing plan. But, to some extent, it seems to work. Power of John Mauldin? Hmmm … I wonder if Jim Cramer is available?

  11. David says:

    Hi Drjohn,
    I am a bit confused by this article. It seems to me you indicated that you found no scientific proof of their claims nor proof of the patent they also claimed. You state that the trials appear not to be scientific in that there is no mention of how many subjects there were, etc. So what I took away from your investigation is that there really is no scientific validity to their claims. Yet towards the end of the article you make a statement of “this stuff is for real” or something to that effect. I cannot tell if you believe the claims they are making, and the science behind it is legitimate or not.

    • drjohn says:

      Hi David. Sorry for any confusion. While I took fault with LifeLine’s approach to the market, including a web site with no clinical trial data, and other things that left me scratching my head, you will see in the follow up portion of the piece that I subsequently had direct contact with their chief scientist Dr Craw. He answered many questions to my satisfaction. Sometimes in science that is how it works – personal communications between colleagues in a field. I came away with a better understanding of the way Lifeline approaches the stem cell as cytokine farm paradigm. Different than my own in many ways, but valid and scientifically wholesome and logical and all that. My confidence in Dr. Craw also gets imputed to Lifeline. So, the answer is yes – legitimate science, claims believable based on known constructs, solid scientists, data still not published but they plan to do so. Hope this helps.

  12. jonesy says:

    hello, the simple question is have you used it or has anyone you know used it? is it expensive? does it work? the ad i saw in the newspaper gave quotes from mainstream news sources, i.e. fox, nbc, cbs, abc…”stem cell cream shows benefits similar to collagen injections”. if this is true i will be running to buy it!


    • drjohn says:

      jonesy, what newspaper did you see it in? We are not aware of any studies making such a comparison, and frankly would be skeptical of any with those results. Collagen injections work immediately, while it takes many months for topically applied treatments to build up collagen. Further, many do so by inflamming the inner structures of the skin, leading to “inflammaging” When you stop those, it is possible that things will be worse than when you started. Thanks to BFT we know a lot of people who have used this product. Some satisfied, some not. I continue to believe it is effective, not at all a scam like many others we talk about here, based on what I do know about the ingredients and the scientists working at ISCO. I do have issues with the marketing people, but that too is minor compared to the total hyperbolic nonsense we encounter out there every day. Have I mentioned SynAke oil lately?

  13. jonesy says:

    drjohn, i saw it in the sunday paper in knoxville; i’d never heard of it before so i tore out the advert and started looking online. i found your website today. i’m about to purchase a dermaroller, what is your own opinion about that? will that result in inflammaging?

    i cannot tell from these particular comments that anyone has had real success with the product, just that one person had an allergic reaction. that’s not much to go by.

    • drjohn says:

      Still have the advert? I would love to get a copy. fax, scan, whatever. Dermarollers have good evidence for effectiveness , and as long as you leave enough time between sessions (weeks to months) you will not get into a situation of chronic inflammation. We have a number of users who combine dermarolling with our product because it accelerates the healing process and adds additional regenerative stimulus, in an anti-inflammatory way. Dermarolling also enhances product penetration, so they work together synergistically.

  14. Joe says:

    I was wondering if you would be able to provide any follow up information on this? I see that this article is from 2012 and much has happened since then. I am researching ISCO as an investment possibility and I am looking at the company from all sides. It appears that they may file for the IND for the Parkinson’s treatment, but I am still cloudy on the skin care line. Any new information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

    • drjohn says:

      We haven’t looked closely, but suspect that the Parkinson’s treatment shows promise, albeit at a very early stage. We like the scientists involved, and have confidence they know what they are doing (a rarity in the skin care biz). We still could pick bones about certain minor aspects of the skin care product, but in that realm the marketing may be more important than the science anyway. We are not stock pickers by trade, but we do observe that if there is one industry with more hype than skin care, that is it. Our advice would likely fare no better than random dart picks, but there is our sentiment read. I do notice that market cap is now $34M. I have one question – how much has been invested in the company to date? I know past performance is no guarantee of future performance, etc, but I always want to know how current investors have fared.

  15. ISCO Lotion says:

    What a Freaking Waste of my time…such a waste I am compelled just to write about it. You are subjective and you have not even tried it yourself.
    You Babble and babble and freaking babble.
    Lifeline Review….more like a stock review.
    Deceptive title…I don’t even think you know what you’re talking about when you refer to stem cells…is it an “embryo”…idiot.
    You need to study your Stem Cells in more depth before making such reckless remarks.

    • drjohn says:

      Wow, we really tipped this chap over the brink, didn’t we? Pushed him into a veritable fit. Perhaps he lost money on the stock, poor fellow. Given that his e-mail address has “AAPL” and a few numbers in it, we suspect he has had a really rough go with the old portfolio lately. And yet we had so many nice things to say about Lifeline if he read the whole thing. We do find it interesting that he suggest we study stem cells in more depth (I wonder what his qualifications are?). Anyway, even rants qualify for publication around here, although we had to remove his obscene acronym. We suggest a warm bath and a stiff drink.

      • Chelle says:

        I would like to know if anything has changed with this company and if reported tests have been completed since you started this article 2 years ago. This product is very expensive and seems to be having a resurgence in the media lately.
        Does it work?

  16. Kelly says:

    Dr. John,

    Is their a skin care product that’s effective today that you would recommend to help with aging skin?


    • drjohn says:

      Kelly, Let me begin my answer with the usual disclosures and caveats. If you read the pair o’docs page on this site you will know that DrGeorge and myself are physicians and stem cell scientists, and that we started intensive research in skin care about 5 years ago. Very new stuff. This means that we have a very stem cell centric view of the future of anti-aging medicine. Not that we don’t believe in the value of other science, but we hold firmly to the idea (and so do many other scientists) that stem cells are this generation’s greatest and most promising leap forward, for all sorts of things. Skin care amongst them. So keep that in mind. We all have biases base on our experience. We fully admit our biases.

      In terms of looking for effective ingredients, it helps to look into the medical literature, basic and clinical research, for guidance. There is only a handful of ingredients that really fit the bill. As you know if you read much around BFT you will also know that we are not shy about calling out an industry that is rife with pseudoscience and to be perfectly blunt is willing to just plain lie for a buck. Guard your wallet.

      Back to the stem cell story. Without laying out the whole case for stem cell skin care (which you can find other places like this one) let us start by saying there is a ton of science out there to be digested about different types of stem cells, how they function, their role in physiology, and how they benefit skin. Now, important to the skin story is that when we are talking about stem cells and skin we are not talking about cells applied to skin for topically applied products (as opposed to e.g. surgical implants and infusions). Instead we are dealing with one important aspect of stem cells – that they product a large array of signaling molecules called cytokines & growth factors. Some in fact are highly specialized to do just that. They are nature’s little cellular “drug stores” (except that the proteins they are all natural) and are virtual powerhouses of healing biochemicals. These stem cells live in the bone marrow and are mobilized at times of injury or stress. Their whole job is to orchestrate healing, or even true “regeneration” which is the holy grail of anti-aging. regenerated tissues are not just healed tissues (scars are healed) but restored tissues, that look younger and rejuvenated, not old and patched together. A key factor in all this is inflammation. Some of the chemicals produced by stem cells are anti-inflammatory. Some are not. It is the balance between inflammatory and anti-inflammatory that makes the difference. It has to do with the concept of inflammaging as applied to skin. What we have done is to develop a proprietary platform for altering the phenotype expression of these special stem cells so that they consistently produce a cocktail of natural signaling biochemicals that is anti-inflammatory, regenerative, and restorative all at the same time.

      There are other stem cell technologies out there. For the most part they just grow stem cells in culture (just a folks have been growing fibroblasts for many decades (e.g. TNS by Skinmedica). Some use the wrong cells (e.g. adipose (fat) derived stem cells produce inflammatory cocktails, not a good idea at all). Some use parthenogenetic cells (read in this thread) but we have issues with the way they are processed and the resulting cocktail. If you happen to read about plant stem cells you have our permission to roll your eyes as you contemplate how plant cells are going to communicate with human skin cells (brief answer – they cannot – its all marketing hype).

      So, at the end of the day, as scientists who believe in their own work, we can only tell you that we believe in the fruits of that labor in products like AnteAge, which we invented and continue to refine. If we liked anybody else’s work better we would have copied them, gone down a different road. We didn’t because we truly believe our work is years ahead, that we are on the right road. And the world is awakening to this, thank you.

      Again, we admit our biases. We are totally biased in the same way that we think our grandbabies are the cutest on the planet. But, just as with AnteAge: we have pictures to prove it!

  17. drgeorge says:

    For those wondering how ISCO is currently faring, the table below will give you the big picture:

    2013 2012
    REVENUES 6.147 M 4.567 M
    GROSS PROFIT 4.504 M 3.295 M
    NET INCOME (10.479 M) (9.833 M)
    SHARE PRICE AUGUST 1, 2014 $ 0.12
    SHARE PRICE FEB 2, 1012 $ 0.48
    % CHANGE IN SHARE PRICE 75% lower

    Click here to see the latest stock price for ISCO

  18. Karyn says:

    I have been using the daily moisturizer and night repair. Cost was 360 dollars for both products. I have not seen any change in the past 2 months. I am going back to skin medica products. Less expensive and better results.

  19. kj says:

    I’ve been using the product, ( both the day and night cream) for over a year now. I love how my skin looks. I changed to another product line and after 3 months I’m back to stay on Life Line!

  20. drjohn says:

    The stock price as of oct, 17, 2014 is $0.08 per share.

  21. Laura says:

    I just stumbled upon your site while looking for reviews on this particular anti aging
    skincare line. Your approach & honesty are very refreshing. if this is not a skincare line you wold highly recommend, may I ask what particular anti aging line has your high standards approval?

  22. Jules says:


    I have searched your site and cannot find any info on Neocutis bio cream. Any chance you may do a review on it any time soon.

    Thanks J

    • drjohn says:

      Hi Jules. The advertising says: “The first and original skincare cream formulated with patented PSP®, a nourishing protein blend including Human Growth Factors, Interleukins and other Cytokines for state-of-the-art skin revitalization.” We have several times approaches sales people and even executives of Neocutis at trade shows and asked the rather simple question “where do these PSP proteins derive from?” Typically we get evasive answers or “I don’t know”. That seems so odd to us. It’s complicated high science to get human growth factors and cytokines, and something for any company should brag about. So why the mystery? You have top go back to this article published in the Washington Times when the product was first introduced quite few years back. We do not need to comment on the ethical issue of whether it is OK to commercialize tissue from an aborted fetus – there are plenty of folks on both sides of that debate. We shall just call it skin (fibroblasts more likely) from a dead non-consenting human and leave it at that. What troubles us is more that the company feels the need to not disclose this and tell their sales people to avoid the answer to the origin question. Our issue is about full disclosure, and not being tricksy in the marketplace. Having said that, we have taught often about the relative weakness of fibroblasts from any source to match the prolific ability of stem cells to perform the same task in the laboratory (10-50 times as much of key cytokines). And just saying “cytokines” does not satisfy our curiosity about which ones (some are good, some aren’t) in what patterns and to what purpose. We don’t like “black box” biologic products. Now, having said all that, we have never tested the product and have no idea how well it works. That’s not our mission. And we do believe that the good folks at Neocutis are well meaning, sincere folks, trying to make a buck, just like the rest of us in the skin trade. We only point out their sins of omission with the hope that it encourages them, and indeed all interests in this community, to put science back on top and not sacrifice it to marketing messages. Full disclosure. A little sunshine in this industry would be healthy.

  23. Davis says:

    I was referred to a new product called Venus Skin SCT (stem cell therapy) and my results have been amazing. The stem cells are derived from human bone marrow and they have a lot of science to back up the product. Maybe take a look and compare.

    • drjohn says:

      The stock continues to decline since our last update.

    • drjohn says:

      Compare apples and oranges? Compare bone-marrow derived stem cell biosignals (as in Venus Skin SCT) to parthenogenetic stem cells that have been lysed through repeated free dry cycles, spilling out the entire intracellular contents, etc.? We have yet to see what the actual secretome of these cells is, let alone the composition of the whole cell pate produced by freeze-thaw lysis. Now, to repeat, we like Lifeline’s work on internal medicine problems. Interesting science. But they are far less savvy in their approach to stem cell skin care science, and it shows.

      Venus Skin SCT represents the leading edge in stem cell skin care science. Mind you, we had a part in it’s inception, so we (your BFT docs) must declare our usual unabashed bias. Go read about it here.

  24. JK says:

    Dr John, what is your take on the company (skin care side) and product now? It has been a few years since your last update. Thank you in advance.

    • drjohn says:

      All the good people left, the science deteriorated further, and the products are overpriced for what they accomplish. In my humble opinion.


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