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telomeres, and thus the ageing process. There is some scientific evidence to support this idea: for example, mutations in telomerase component genes in the disease dyskeratosis congenita, which results in premature ageing, are associated with a number of epidermal abnormalities. So it would seem that manipulation of telomerase activity in the skin could be a way of regulating telomere length, which might in turn be able to ameliorate skin diseases associated with ageing.

produce an identical daughter stem cell plus a type of cell known as a transit amplifying cell. This undergoes further differentiation and gradually migrates through the epidermis until it reaches the stratum corneum. The function of stem cells in the skin was discussed in the March 2011 issue of PRIME . During ageing, there is a gradual

decrease in the rate at which epidermal cells are replaced. This is the result of an impaired ability by the stem cells to produce differentiated effector cells, rather than a decrease in their number or in their inherent ability to reproduce. The end result is a number of structural and biochemical changes in the skin, the visible manifestations of which include wrinkling, decreased elasticity, dryness, thinning, and increased fragility. In the past 2–3 years, stem cells have

become one of the most talked about topics in skin care because of their promise to reverse the signs of ageing. Of course, simply applying stem cells to the skin is not a realistic option as they would not be able to reach the layers of the skin where they are needed. In addition, living stem cells would not survive for very long in a cosmetic product, even with refrigeration or other preservative techniques. Consequently, companies have been developing products that contain components with the ability to

protect the stem cells already in the skin from degradation, or that stimulate the production of new stem cells. These include the protein epidermal growth factor and the enzyme telomerase. The use of telomerase arose out of

research carried out in the 1960s, which showed that normal, healthy cells do not have the ability to replicate indefinitely. Most cells can divide no more than about 50 times, a maximum referred to as the Hayflick limit after the scientist who first discovered it. Subsequent studies found that the

ends (the so-called telomeric regions or telomeres) of human sex chromosomes were substantially shorter in somatic cells than in germ cells, and this led to the hypothesis that some telomeric DNA is lost each time a cell divides. Around the same time, it was reported that the ends of the chromosomes in Tetrahymena, a single-celled organism, were maintained by an enzyme, telomerase, which added new terminal DNA sequences. This led to the suggestion that the telomerase in somatic cells might not be fully active, and that it was the sustained loss of telomeric DNA that was responsible for the Hayflick limit. It was just one step on from there to

propose that replacement of the telomerase lost from stem cells as they divide might be able to slow the loss of the

Product development A number of products that aim to exploit this technology have appeared on the market. The first was probably ReVive’s Peau Magnifique: one UK retailer currently offers the product at a price of £930 for four ampoules (equivalent to £1033 per ml), with the claims that ‘telomerase converts resting adult stem cells to fresh newly-minted cells for a firmer, more defined appearance’ and that it ‘can reset the rate of your skin aging by up to five years’. If the price seems high, it must be pointed out that the product should be used ‘no more than twice a year, in the evening, after cleansing. Smooth onto face and massage in with circular motions’. Another product is Voss Laboratories’

Amatokin, which contains an ingredient, ‘Polypeptide 153’, that is claimed to increase stem cell production in the skin. Polypeptide 153 was originally developed in Russia to help burn victims’ severe scars and damaged skin to heal more quickly, before its potential as an anti-wrinkle product was realised. There are three Amatokin products, which can be used separately or together: Amatokin Emulsion, a daily-use facial cream claimed to rejuvenate adult stem cells and provide relief and protection from harmful free radicals; Amatokin Eye Cream, a lighter formulation for the more sensitive skin around the eyes; and

Amatokin Intensive

Skin-Rejuvenating Serum, a heavy concentration of active ingredients designed specifically for problem areas such as severe wrinkles, lines, and creases. Amatokin is priced much more modestly than Peau Magnifique. An interesting twist on the use of stem

cell-related products to reverse the signs of ageing is the appearance of products containing so-called Swiss apple stem | January/February 2012 ❚ 63

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