“There is no real beauty without some slight imperfection”
But the beauty industry is striving to achieve perfection. The amount of money and time spent by humans to find the right combination of products is what drives this vast industry. The competition to give the best results has driven the cosmetic industry to dive into advanced research and thus blurring the line between cosmetic and medical research.
Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy is a form of regenerative medicine that can harness the body’s healing abilities and amplify the natural growth factors. PRP consists of plasma rich in platelets: which is important for the healing process as it enables clotting as well as white blood cells that fight infections. So, injecting PRP into damaged tissues will possibly stimulate your body to grow new and healthy cells. The patient’s own blood is extracted and a concentrate of platelet-rich plasma protein is derived after the removal of red blood cells. This serum is then injected into the area being treated.
Besides injuries and wound healing, PRP is now becoming a popular tool for a variety of cosmetic procedures. These micro-wounds also allow the passage of products like serums, growth factors and PRP into the skin. One such treatment is the ‘Vampire facial’, involving a series of gentle injections of PRP on the face. Injecting the same on the scalp where hair loss is evident has shown to stimulate hair regrowth.
Having immense potential in the medical world, stem cell therapies have recently gained popularity in the cosmetic industry. Even though it does a similar job as PRP, stem cell therapy is much more advanced in practice. Stem cells are precursor cells that can differentiate into many cell types and also fix damaged tissues. Stem cell rejuvenation involves a series of minimally invasive injections into the desired area, followed by a short recovery period. Adult stem cells are used for the same as embryonic stem cells, despite being more potent, are rarely available for cosmetic use. Found in both plants and animals, adult stem cells can be taken from various places in the body like fat reserves, bone marrow, or the blood. These stem cells are commonly used in similar therapies as PRP: to heal injuries, repair damage in soft tissues and, in the case of the cosmetic industry, regenerate cells for hair growth and skin treatments.
Inspired by the ‘glowing’ appearance of pregnant women, a New Jersey based company called Proteonomix launched anti-aging products that contain proteins derived from specialized stem-cell lines. During pregnancy, a woman’s body increases the production of specific proteins in response to secretions produced by the embryo. These specific proteins affect certain receptors in both fibroblasts and keratinocytes that increase the production of collagen.
Another South Korean biotechnology company called RNL Bio, is developing a stem-cell-based cream for cosmetic applications containing proteins from cultured placenta stem cells. A recombinant form of human transforming growth factor-β3 (TGF-β3) is being used as the active ingredient in the development of Juvista, a drug which aims to reduce scarring after injury.
Many cosmetic and bio-pharmaceutical companies are investing a great deal of effort in understanding the aging process in order to find its countermeasures. Various treatments aim to reduce the process of collagen collapse (which is the fragmentation of the collagen matrix in the inner layer of skin caused by metalloproteinases). Topical retinoic acid, carbon dioxide laser resurfacing and intradermal injection of cross-linked hyaluronic acid are all known to stimulate the production of collagen, and to improve the appearance and health of the skin. Telomere length shortening is one of the key hallmarks of the aging process. Telomeres are tandem nucleotide repeats located at the end of the chromosomes which maintain genomic stability. Telomeres shorten during replication (mitosis) due to the inherent inability to fully replicate the end part of the lagging DNA strand.
When TL reaches a critical length, cells cannot replicate and progress to senescence or programmed cell death. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy involves breathing almost pure oxygen in a special room or small chamber. Mainly used to treat diving related illnesses, this treatment has proven to increase telomere length up to 38% and senescent cells reduced up to 37%.The telomeres will surely shorten again but this recent discovery opens up a wide range of possibilities.
This cutting-edge research, performed by leading cosmetic companies is also benefiting the development of therapies against a range of serious disorders. On similar lines, various biotechnology companies, such as those that are investigating methods to boost DNA repair or wound healing, have licensed some of their molecules to the cosmetic industry, or have even entered the market with a proprietary line of beauty products themselves. The quest for achieving perfection goes on but, imperfections is what make us human.