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OPINION | ANTI-AGEING MEDICINE |


AGAINST AGEING: STEM CELLS OFFER NEW OPTIONS


THE FIGHT Stem cells have become one of the most talked about


topics in the fields of regenerative medicine and aesthetic surgery. Peter Charlish discusses the rationale for using stem cells, and looks at some of the techniques being used


PETER CHARLISH Principal Analyst, Informa Business Information


email: peter.charlish@informa. com


elderly than in children, for example, and certain organs, such as the skin and the lungs, gradually lose their elasticity. At the same time, our susceptibility to cancer and infectious disease increases significantly with age. During tissue repair, stem cells are


O


There are currently two ways in which stem cells are being used:


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topically to counter the visible signs of ageing, and internally to generate new tissue.


recruited to form new tissue. Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the ability to divide either to produce two similar daughter cells or to develop into specialised cells with a defined function. They play a role in embryonic development during early life and growth, and in adults promote repair of the body through a variety of mechanisms that lead to the replenishment of cells that have lost functionality as a result of disease or injury. Animals that are good at regenerating


lost tissue, such as flatworms, have a much higher number of stem cells in their bodies than more developed species that are not so good at tissue regeneration. Meanwhile, increasing susceptibility to cancer and infectious disease in old age is the result of a decline in the effectiveness of the immune system, which in turn depends on the performance of


January/February 2012 | prime-journal.com


NE OF THE CONSEQUENCES of ageing is a progressive loss of the ability to repair damaged tissue. Injuries heal more slowly in the


haematopoietic stem cells, particularly in sites like the thymus, bone marrow and mucous membranes. In short, stem cells are implicated in


many, if not all, of the processes involved in ageing. Not surprisingly, then, they are increasingly being used to try to ward off the effects of ageing, as well as in other aesthetic procedures. As far as aesthetic procedures are


concerned, there are currently two ways in which stem cells are being used: topically to counter the visible signs of ageing, and internally to generate new tissue in situations ranging from breast enhancement to the treatment of stress urinary incontinence.


The skin The largest repository of adult stem cells in the body is the skin. Two types of stem cell occur in the skin: epithelial stem cells, of which more in a moment, and hair bulge stem cells, which are found in the hair follicles. The precise function of hair bulge stem cells is still a matter of debate, although they appear to have the ability to transform into a number of different cell types, as well as playing a role in hair growth. Epithelial stem cells normally reside in


the basal layer of the epidermis and remain quiescent until activated by injury or disease. They then divide to


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