This old adage only applies when you know you are being fooled. If cleaver marketing with coined slogans and verbiage in involved, it is quite possible to be fooled over and over and not even know it.
BFT feels the skincare purchasing public has a right to know the facts, especially in cases where ethical and moral boundaries are possibly being violated. This may be one of those instances. Our opinion is there is sufficient evidence to raise the issue.
A recent encounter at July 2019’s The Aesthetic Show in Las Vegas renews BFT’s concerns about transparency in disclosing to the public the source of cell culture derived bio-signals in skincare products. Many people will not care a whit; others may care a great deal. It is for the latter group that BFT once again raises the issue.
For background, readers may wish to re-visit a prior BFT post from November 2016: http://barefacedtruth.com/2016/11/22/what-csc14-cells-actually-come-from-human-embryos/.
We wonder yet gain about the ethical moorings of the same company that is mentioned in the BFT post identified above. Before getting into the details of our concerns, a little review.
The last several decades yielded important advances in our understanding of cellular biology and inter-cellular communication. All human cells, except red blood cells, are now known to participate in an extraordinarily complex cellular “language”, the words of which are the molecular bio-signals that activate corresponding cellular membrane receptors. Receptor activation in turn initiates a cascade of bio-chemical processes within the cell that affect protein synthesis and the up or down regulation of genes.
There are hundreds of identified “words”. These include growth factors, cytokines, chemokines, interleukins, interferons and others. As discussed abundantly on BFT, different kinds of cells secrete different patterns of bio-signals, and the cumulative effect of the pattern secreted by each type of cell has distinguishing characteristics.
The genetics of the cell type cultured are the primary determinants of what biosignals are produced in the laboratory. During our discussions about skin aesthetics on BFT, we have focused largely on whether or not a particular cell type secretes a net pro-inflammatory or net anti-inflammatory biosignal pattern. Our premise, of course, is that inflammation is a proven pro-aging factor, regardless of what causes it or what organ system is involved. Chronic inflammation, even when sub-clinical, is pro-aging. Period.
Cell Types cultured and Biosignals produced
Several kinds of cells are cultured to produce skin product ingredients. The cells most notably used as sources of biosignals for skincare are fibroblasts, and stem cells from fat, bone marrow, umbilical cord, placenta, and as we learned once again in Las Vegas, human embryos.
Human embryos? Apparently so, according to what your BFT host was told by one of the people at the Root of Skin exhibitor booth at The Aesthetics Show. If this reminds you of another brand of product that we profiled several years ago, it should, also from the same company.
Remember this one?
Provoque® – the next big thing – for a while
Provoque®, the product that was the topic of the November 2016 BFT post, contained ingredients harvested from conditioned media of CSC14 cell cultures. That’s what Aivita Biomedical, the maker of Provoque®, were promulgating in their marketing materials. No where did they mention that CSC14 cells were, in fact, human embryonic stem cells donated by an anonymous couple who consented to their use for research purposes.
Ignoring the fact that BFT has issues with the particulars of the embryonic stem cell secretome (what the cells produce in culture), and their suitability for chronic use in skincare, Aivita Biomedical’s failure to mention the specific type of cells they use in their technology is troubling… again.
Our concern was and is simple, BFT considers it misleading to sell products containing human embryonic stem cell-derived ingredients without telling consumers, some of whom might have significant ethical concerns or objections.
If BFT readers Google Provoque®, interesting information emerges. LovelySkin.com states that Provoque Facial Serum has been discontinued. The Aivita Biomedical website still mentions the product and has a search function to find a physician reseller, which turns out to be a digital dead end. Instead of providing a means to find a reseller, the viewer sees a list of press releases from Aivita Biomedical.
What was Claimed that made ProvoqueTM Different or Unique?
ProvoqueTM contained the growth factors, cytokines and other substances produced by CSC14 cells. The article below was cited in the marketing materials for ProvoqueTM, creating the strong implication that the purported revolutionary cosmetic ingredient was is in it.
When we reviewed this article long ago, our observation was the purported conclusions could not be reached because the study design, a “vehicle controlled” study, was not the methodology used for the research described. Our opinion remains that the title is misleading, and the data does not support the conclusion. The article was nonetheless the focal point of the Provoque® marketing campaign.
One of the authors of this article is CEO of Aivita Biomedical. The cells identified in the article as the type being cultured are CSC14 cells, easily determined as the NIH (National Institute Health) designation given to a certain strain of embryonic stem cells. Approval of these cells for research resulted from an application of a company domiciled at the same address and office number as Aivita Biomedical. That company, California Stem Cell, Inc., is involved in medical stem cell research. Their logos have an uncanny family resemblance and have had the same scientist as CEO.
From an Aivita Biomedical Press Release dated May 13, 2016
“Thanks to our unique in vitro culture system, PROVOQUE Facial Serum has over 25 stem cell-derived growth factors, which can help improve the appearance of the skin.”
Was not Identifying and Naming CSC14 Cells as Embryonic Stem Cells Deliberate?
It is possible to search the internet and learn that CSC14 cells are indeed of human embryonic origin but BFT can only envision a few (if any) consumers having ever done so. Does it matter that human embryonic stem cells are being cultured to create skincare products? For many people, this question is much less important than whether or not the product works.
If you do care, do you think the information being provided to the public by the company is frank and candid? Or deliberately intended to avoid revealing what for some people might be considered immoral, maybe even sinful?
BFT would be interesting in learning what our readers think.
Root of SkinTM MD also “Mum” on the Subject of Embryonic Stem Cells
Root of SkinTM MD (there is also a less potent consumer version) is the latest skincare brand from Aivita Biotechnology. As would be expected, Aivita Biotechnology’s website marketing understandably lauds their science team’s credentials and accomplishments. Nowhere, however, is the any mention of CSC14 cells as being the source of product ingredients. We assume the information we obtained from the Root of SkinTM exhibitor booth personnel is correct. Evidently, the company continues to culture embryonic (CSC14) stem cells to obtain their bio-signals – again without informing the purchasing public.
Aivita BioMedical has coined a new brand name for the science found within the Root of SkinTM products:
“SOURCECODE TECHNOLOGY™ THE ULTIMATE DISCOVERY”
Now, all we have to do is try to figure out what this means. Quotes from their website hype the technology but in a cryptic and hyperbolic way that looks like the marketers had a field day thinking of superlatives.
Root of Skin™ is expertly formulated by world leaders in stem cell science and pioneers in regenerative medicine.
- They harnessed decades of discovery in restoration and healing – leading to the ultimate discovery.
- Root of Skin™ cracked the code to unlock the skin’s ability to renew itself, as if from day one.
- Patented, proprietary, SourceCode Technology™ does more than just boost regeneration. It uniquely empowers your skin to renew itself like it does in its youngest and healthiest stage.
- Root of Skin™ formulas contain the complete set of naturally occurring biological components relevant to skin rejuvenation. Providing everything your skin needs, and nothing it doesn’t.
Other Places, Other Brands
Aivita Biomedical is busy in the skincare market but its business doesn’t rest solely on the Root of SkinTM and Root of SkinTM MD brands. A series of news releases chronicles the eight sell-out successes of ROOT of SKIN™ on Japan’s QVC channel. The company is promoting its active ingredients broadly to companies for applications in their own skincare products. Mention has been made by the CEO that AiVita has been in discussions with nine other skincare firms who are considering incorporating the ingredients in their own brands.
Profits Pledged to Benefit Ovarian Cancer
Skincare products are evidently not the only focus at Aivita, being that it appears to be a follow-on or derivative company of California Stem Cell, Inc. The company also actively researches innovative immunologic treatments for glioblastoma (brain cancer) and ovarian cancer, as well as the use of stem cells in treatments for retinal disorders. The company website and literature states that “all proceeds from product (Root of Skin and Root of Skin MD) sales support AIVITA’s clinical development pipeline”, specifically their ovarian cancer research.
No one can reasonably be critical of such support for this important cancer research, and BFT applauds Aivita Biomedical’s use of skincare sales generated funds. We wonder, nonetheless, is this declaration in any way intended to take public’s eye off another issue – where does “Soucecode TechnologyTM The Ultimate Discovery” some from?
Could it possibly be from human embryonic stem cells? Some people will care a great deal if it is.
What do you think?