“Cytokine Facts” & Actual Products (Part 5 of a Series)

In this edition, we look at the marketplace and try to make sense of products containing cytokines and growth factors derived from human stem cells. How do they add up in term of the science we laid out in parts 1-4.   Is it possible to actually know what is in such products? Is it important to know?

Let’s start with a quick peek at a commercial product that publishes on its website a list of cytokines in its skin care product. This particular one is based on adipose-derived stem cells, which we dealt with extensively in part 4 of this series.












Now let’s take these cytokines and put them on our “cytokine balance” to get a picture of the inflammatory vs. anti-inflammatory potential. As you can see, it is heavily tilted to the inflammatory side of the scale. In fact, only one anti-inflammatory cytokine is even mentioned. And they are quite accurate in their descriptions of the functions, e.g. GM-CSGF “activates neutrophils, eosinophils, and monocytes”.  Those are the acutely inflammatory white cells we have talked about.









Now, we don’t know whether they actually measured these cytokines or just looked in the adipose stem cell literature. Although we did see in some forums where people said they contacted the company and these were actually measured. I’d like to leave them a little wiggle room.

Recall from our earlier discussions that what stem cells in culture actually express is not a constant, but depends on many factors.  We talked extensively about age of donor, tissue site of origin, what you feed the cells in the lab, and the many other variables (and deliberate manipulations) that come into play. So the best way to really know is to measure them. In fact, this chart is my favorite, because it sums this up simple and clearly:

In our own work, we do not simply grow MSC’s in culture and farm them for cytokines. Although we know from their tissue of origin and many published reports in the literature what we would probably get. We talk to the cells in their own language to get them to alter their output of the cytokines we know are the most important. Important for what?  For healing wounds? No. That will not surprise those of you who read back in part 2 about the differences between  wound healing as a paradigm, and skin rejuvenation as a goal.

Here is a modest proposal. Just like there are “Nutrition Facts” labels on foods, why not “Cytokine Facts” labels on skin care products derived from stem cell technology.  Let’s make it easy for people to see what is actually in a product, so they can make good purchasing decisions for themselves. This will make it much easier to do meaningful comparisons between products.


At left:  example of a net anti-inflammatory cytokine facts label.










At right:  example of a net inflammatory cytokine facts label.







The non-benign consequences of inflammation.












  1. sharon says:

    Is there going to be a prize awarded for the first one to guess which product on the market has that amazingly inflammatory profile?

  2. JodieY says:

    A little googling is all it takes to figure out what product. LOL. You do know that the live-in magpies at EDS are going to go all apoplectic over this. I would guess they shut down any thread where the topic is even brought up. They can’t take the truth! Thanks for this landmark review on the subject.

  3. Bethany says:

    Does this mean you will be publishing a “Cytokine Facts” label for AnteAge soon? Or is that the AnteAge label up above since it said it is from marrow? Thanks!

  4. Kath says:

    I see 22 inflammory cytokines and 12 anti-inflammatory cytokines listed on the mock Nutrition Label above; I see 12 inflammatory cytokines ‘starred’ and 11 anti-inflammatory cytokines ‘starred’. Please explain/clarify the 2:1 ratio of anti-inflammatory to inflammatory cytikines listed. on that label.

    • drjohn says:

      Kath, this is a work-in-progress post, and we planned to update these illustrations before calling it final. They are meant to be mockups;conceptual, not definitive. Although we did use the examples in the text.

      There will probably be another series to follow, stepping back and examining the more general topic of inflammation in skin care. How many products out there rely on acute inflammation to “diminish fine lines” which actually results from inflammatory cells and resulting fluid infiltrates? And is “chronic smoldering inflammation” (CSI) resulting from continued use of these products, how is that anti-aging? Or is it in fact pro-aging, in the same sense that CSI leads to atherosclerosis, kidney failure, osteoarthritis, and other disorders associated with aging? We are now ion the process of gathering evidence that the latter may well be the case.

  5. Anna says:

    How long are the stem cells active for in the cream? I was reading they only have a short term lifespan, is this correct? Thank you. Anna

    • drjohn says:

      Anna, there are no cells in the cream. The products contain the cytokines and growth factors made by human stem cells grown under special conditions in the lab. These are proteins, which are wrapped in natural lipid envelopes to preserve them and keep them functional. Stem cells exert their magic using the signaling biochemicals, you you get the benefits without needing live cell transplants (as long as you apply twice a day).

  6. Mary says:

    I can definitely vouch for their magic. I’m on my third duo of the Anteage MD formulations. I’m 54 and got carded the other day. Thank you, doctors, and please never, ever stop making your products!

  7. Joel says:

    I had a mole removed via CO2 laser 2 weeks ago. Can the AnteAge Microneedling solution be used on fresh, pink skin to help with healing, decreased redness and scar proliferation? If it’s beneficial, how often should it be applied along with the AnteAge Serum?

    • drjohn says:

      Indeed it can, Joel. I would just use it twice daily just before AnteAge serum. Increases the dose of anti-inflammatory, anti-scarring TGF-B3.

  8. G says:

    I noticed your point that a mix of cytokines should have a net anti-inflammatory profile. But is it more desirable for a cytokine cocktail to contain only anti-inflammatory signals, or to contain some inflammatory signals as well?

    • drjohn says:

      G,another great question. Yes, some inflammatory cytokines are acceptable along with anti-inflammatory ones in a cocktail of regenerative signaling molecules. Any human cell-derived medium contains some of each – it is the net balance that counts. Inflammatory cytokines may be helpful to kick things off (e.g. for wound healing in diabetics) but you want to quickly transition from inflammatory to anti-inflammatory (the so-called regenerative phase of wound healing). If you stay in inflammatory you will get scars, rigid fibroblasts, poor cross linking on collagen fibers, high levels of proteases, all of which accelerates the appearance of aging rather than being anti-aging. Aging itself can be linked to a progressive inability to mount a good anti-inflammatory healing process. Of of this also brings up our nagging question – WHY WOULD YOU PUT INFLAMMATORY SUBSTANCES ON SKIN HEALING AFTER LASER, RF, MICRONEEDLING, DERMABRASION, HYDRAFACIALS, AND OTHER AESTHETIC PROCEDURES? Makes no sense to us. Just puts you back into rapid aging mode which diminishes the end result.

  9. G says:

    I appreciate your reply. I understand that it is important for the body to produce some inflammatory cytokines, however I’m still confused as to why inflammatory cytokines are beneficial in topical products.

    Since our bodies make enough inflammatory signals when needed, and since it is anti-inflammatory signals that adults desire more of, why not apply purely anti-inflammatory cytokines to the skin? Would this cause a cytokine ‘imbalance’? Or is it impossible to isolate purely anti-inflammatory signals from the medium? Or, do we include some ‘bad’ cytokines in skin care products because they can actually produce greater anti-inflammatory effects than ‘good’ cytokines alone?

    Please help me understand.

    • drjohn says:

      Again, great questions. It’s because stem cells produce both, under different circumstances. And because, as you guessed, sometimes you can make inflammatory cytokines work in your favor if balanced by anti-inflammatory ones. As a example, there are molecules called MMPs that dissolve old proteins, which is good because because you can then clean up debris from dead cells. But too many of them and you get tissue4 breakdown, thinning skin, and aging. But if you balance with lots of TIMP’s, which inhibit those guys, you get a net benefit.

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