DISCLOSURE: THE FOLLOWING IS A DISCUSSION OF PRODUCTS THAT DR JOHN AND DR GEORGE HAVE A COMMERCIAL INTEREST IN. THIS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL AND ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE AN ADVERTISEMENT FOR THESE PRODUCTS, OR AN OFFER TO SELL. WE DO NOT ALLOW ADVERTISING ON BFT, EVEN FOR OUR OWN PRODUCTS. DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT AGREE WITH THESE TERMS OF SERVICE.
Can parents be expected to give an unbiased review of the amazing wonder and beauty of their newborn offspring ? Hardly. We all take such reviews with a large grain of sodium chloride, knowing that emotion overcomes logic, perceptions become filtered, and truth suddenly becomes a matter of interpretation rather than based on cold hard facts.
When BFT was launched last autumn, we promised a no holds barred approach to skincare science and products, and to educate our readership about the good, bad, and ugly of the cosmeceutical marketplace. From the feedback and participation we received, our efforts are appreciated and making a difference.
And, as we disclosed 6 months ago when we started this blog, Drs. John & George are physician-scientists in the world of stem cells and cosmeceuticals, and our day job is with a company called Cellese Regenerative Therapeutics. We also revealed that the company was working on a product. Many of you inquired along the way, and we promised to tell you when it reached the market. That product (AnteAge) has now been released.
We debated whether to discuss that product here at all, since the mission of barefacedtruth is uncovering the (sometimes ugly) truth in the world of cosmeceuticals, and educating about the underlying science, not promoting our own products. We asked some of our regular BFT readers what they thought. The typical reply was: “why not? … as long as you are discussing the science. Like why you chose certain ingredients, that sort of thing. In fact, we would love to hear more.”
Bias is a fact of life. We are all predisposed to negative or positive views of various things, based on our prior experience, training, and various motivations (especially economic). In the context of product reviews, it is best just to state your biases up front so that readers can judge for themselves whether the data and opinions have any merit at all, or are simply the product of these biases.
We are scientists and entrepreneurs. Our opinions of our own products are shaded by the fact that we are heavily invested (time and money), and the economic motivation that we might break even on all this (or even make a profit) someday in the distant future. Another obvious bias comes from the fact that we designed these products from the ground up based on our own scientific discoveries, knowledge base, and opinions about what works and what doesn’t.
Another area of curiosity we thought we thought we could satisfy is that which is reflected in a question we get a lot: how do products get from laboratory to market? Being the most transparent cosmeceutical scientists on the planet, we thought we could share some of that with you. Not everything (we do have a board of directors, and employment contracts with confidentiality clauses) but since BFT is separate we have an independent platform.
Disclaimer: THIS REVIEW IS UNABASHEDLY BIASED. READ AT YOUR OWN DISCRETION. IT IS NOT AN ADVERTISEMENT.
Having disclosed our inherent biases in no uncertain terms, we can now go about trying to give you a review that contains some useful facts and insights. Regardless of how we go about this, some will accuse us of shameless promotion, or of abandoning the truth mission of BFT. We are used to taking heat; that’s not a problem. We will try to do this with delicacy and self-awareness, and trying hard keeping our core principles intact. We also do it with tongue in cheek, as we often do around here, as you may have noticed. This wouldn’t be BFT if we did everything with a straight face.
Part 1. A brief history of AnteAGE
We are going to start with the AnteAGE genesis story. We want to share the process of discovery and product design. The trials and tribulations of moving from lab discovery through many steps before a product can be born. We hope you will find it interesting, and afford insight into the process of science.
AnteAge was in development for 3+ years. It went through multiple iterations, a gyrating course of discovery-testing-trial-more discovery and so forth. The key ingredient (stem cytokines) has actually been around for longer than that – and we were not the first to witness the skin rejuvenation benefits of cytokines. In fact, products based on earlier technologies and using other cell types under growth promoting conditions have been around for more than a decade (e.g. SkinMedica TNS serum, based on fibroblast cell conditioned medium, which contains a mixture of cytokines & related proteins).
We decided to employ not fibroblasts, but stem cells, and indeed a particular class of stem cell that is the subject of intensive work in many other stem cell laboratories around the world; one whose primary role on human physiology seems to be healing and regeneration. We have several posts here at BFT that reveal some of the wonders of these natural “911” cells and how they function. They are called mesenchymal stem cells (MSC ‘s). They are capable of migrating to injured areas where they are “grabbed” by tissues in need, and where they set up a command and control center to coordinate healing. They may engraft (attach and divide to become new tissue native cells (be it heart muscle or skin), but the majority of their work is orchestrating other cells. And they do it how? With cytokines. All cells create and respond to cytokines, but MSC’s are cytokine powerhouses. Again, this reflects their unique role in nature . They are all about communication (very talkative), and like to be in control (we were at one time tempted to call them mother-in-law cells, but first responders seems more appropriate in terms of what they actually accomplish ).
We are fortunate in that our principal collaborator at the university (one of the research docs on the stem cell institute) is an expert in cell biology, and a world class scientist. The laboratory has success to equipment and resources that are rare and quite valuable in our work. Plus, we are surrounded by other academic researchers working on all sorts of things related to stem cells. We have access to some of the greatest minds in the field.
Our key discoveries have to do with understanding the pattern of cytokines (there are hundreds) and how they can be like letters in a word. The patterns are important, as is the cross chatter between cytokines within a cell culture. By understanding the language of MSC’s we can harness their regenerative power. It’s important to remember, AnteAge as a product contains no cells or cell parts or cell organs or any of that (some of our “stem cell cream” competitors break apart whole cells). MSC’s are grown in “farms” of millions of MSC’s under strict sterile conditions in a university laboratory. Their environment is highly controlled. We mimic the niche they live in with the body. We “talk” to them. They produce abundant cytokines in regenerative patterns. We isolate them, leaving all that cell stuff behind. Cytokines are further processed to package them for delivery through skin (nanoliposomes).
Once we had demonstrated to our own satisfaction through various lab and clinical tests that stem cytokines provide benefits to aging skin, we began to design a complete system. As clinicians we are always looking to the evidence base for best practices and solid efficacy data. So we went to the published literature to find what other biochemical actives work, their level of evidence, how they work (or “mechanism of action” at a cell biology level), in what dosages, on what parts of skin, their chemical characteristics, cross compatibilities, and absorption characteristics. Armed with all that, we hired a highly experienced and quite well known cosmetic chemist, who worked with us diligently through many iterations to come to the products we now call AnteAge. Each active that made the final cut has solid evidence for efficacy and safety, does not conflict with other ingredients (plays nice with others), and fits nicely into the overall puzzle. In some cases there is overlap (e.g. cytokines amongst the many things they do, affect collagen synthesis, as do “collagen-fragment” peptides –but act on different pathways, so they can be expected to be additive).
AnteAge is a dual-part system. A serum, and an accelerator which is more like a light cream in texture and substance. Either alone is actually a complete product, but they are designed to work together. Separating the actives into two parts like this gave us much more flexibility, as the storage characteristics and behavior of the “emulsions” in each are different. We get better stability and shelf life, particularly for liposomes and nanosomes. We don’t have to put “things that sting” in there. The serum goes on first, and is allowed to sit for a minute before applying the accelerator.
The formulation stage was a challenge for all involved. We utilized multiple contract laboratories to produce a series of “lab batches” of each product. We would test each batch with a small group of beta subjects, and we went through multiple iterations, solving a variety of problems along the way, as we perfected the serum and accelerator to the satisfaction of our beta group. We are very fortunate that Cellese’s COO – Steve Rockey, MBA (he goes by just plain “Rockey” – no first name needed – kind of like Ghandi), is a diehard perfectionist himself. Nothing escapes this man’s attention and close scrutiny. He passionately cares about the quality of the products. He and his team are simply the best. How’s that for an unabashedly biased review?
The next stage in the development was a clinical trial of the system as a whole. We recruited 49 people (45 women and 4 men) to a trial taking place in the final quarter of 2011. The results surprised even us. We had been through a small clinical trial with an early generation of our stem cytokines active with another formulation, marketed through others, and had seen positive results way back then. But the continuing development work had paid off – we were now seeing stellar results in 12 different skin parameters that relate to aging, no adverse reactions, and very happy subjects. At one point we started to worry that we had inadvertently created an addictive substance. Several who ran out of trial supplies were calling and e-mailing in panic that they might miss a day.
Once the clinical trial was completed, several more months were required to work through the maze of tasks involving containers (they need to be in airless pumps to keep the proteins fresh), labels, artwork, manufacturing, inventorying ingredients (some are not easily obtainable, and so we had to stockpile these months in advance), working with contract manufacturers, sterility & stability testing, regulatory hoops, logistics, etc . There’s much more, this is a short list. Again, applause to Rockey and his tireless efforts.
AnteAGE by Cellese was launched Q2 2012. We are delighted with the early market response. We have had a couple of glitches e.g. (containers that weren’t assembled correctly, that needed to be replaced, and resulted in a recheck of the entire inventory). We have nothing but positive feedback from the early adopters out there. Although we caution everyone (ourselves included) that these types of skin care products take several months to achieve full benefit. Which is why we tend to look askance at those who change products monthly and then review them, ignoring the overlap, and the time lag of effects..
Meanwhile we continue to “push the envelope” (we are chock full of cliches today). We have accelerated our research and development program, further refining the value we can extract from farms of millions of hard working stem cells making just the right pattern of cytokines for you. We have a collaboration beginning with a world class anti-aging research lab which we anticipate will drive further discoveries. We are generating new and quite interesting data from experiments which we hope to be able to share with you soon. We are also exploring some other quite fascinating areas that we think will bear fruit pretty quickly (e.g. the world’s most direct antioxidant system, wrapped into a variety of skin care products, and so potent that you can even bathe your whole body in it). We are talking whole body anti-aging.
Now we have been through this history, and really haven’t said much in terms of a product review. We had to save something for part 2 of this series. We will be looking next at the ingredients (why each one and the combo), share more news about stem cytokines, and discuss the results of the clinical trial.
Feel free to leave comments.
Back soon with part 2 of the unabashedly biased review.