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.