Monday, January 12, 2009

scientific bull.

as i was browsing through the news, i came across a headline: stem cell correcting cream [edit: they have actually corrected the headline: now it states "stem cell protecting cream". i'm wondering... might this little thing have something to do with the editing of the article? i'm joking; surely the company itself corrected the misleading promise...] and a short article on how the new stem cell technology can preserve and correct your skin's stem cells. wtf, i thought. knowing the scientific skills of beauty journalists, i had to check out what the manufacturer claimed the product could do. as i suspected, the reporter was slightly clueless about the facts.

the news-breaking product is a new skin cream from lumene called excellent future. the site raves about the product as any cosmetics company would:
Innovative and powerful Lumene cream that utilizes modern stem cell technology. Skin contains cells that play a key role in preserving its youthful appearance, stem cells. By protecting these vital cells the cream helps to promote the skin's ability to repair itself.
a while ago i stumbled across a cream called amatokin that was marketed as using stem cell technology to stimulate the activity of endogenous (meaning: present in your own body) stem cells. one of my pet peeves is pseudo-scientific bullshit cosmetics firms love to promote, and these two, albeit different, seem so ludicrous i just have to do an exposé of a sort.

stem cells 101 it is then. first of all stem cells are unique because they can undergo two kinds of division: symmetric and asymmetric which means they can self-renew and have a potency to create progenitor cells which differentiate to either embryonic cells (i.e. every single cell of an organism equaling totipotency) or almost every possibe cell (pluripotent). sometimes cells which are multipotent, i.e. have a potency to differentiate as several cell types which are limited in number, are referred to as adult stem cells, but strictly speaking multipotent cells are progenitor cells. there are some researchers who believe unipotent stem cells can exist, but obviously it contradicts the accepted definition.

the vagueness in terminology facilitates providing misleading information. what cosmetics companies are talking about as stem cells are progenitor cells, a cell type which is usually unipotent i.e. has one target mature cell it will develop into, and skin cells are a prime example of such unipotent suckers.

the thing is, we know quite a bit about stem cells (and the controversy they create because of their main source, the human embryo), but scientific articles about progenitor cells are still at the stages of suggesting that there may, in fact, be multiple classes of progenitor cells maintaining skin. i stress that we are talking in terms of "may" and "possibly". (and here my clever reader will note that my claim about skin cells being "unipotent suckers" depends on whether the newest research is accurate or not...)

the thing is also, that stem cell therapies are a novelty which creates tremendous hope for the future of health care. their potential is huge. this means they're the hottest sh*t science has to offer and, naturally, cosmetics companies are all for sounding as scientific as possible. the problem is that stem cell technology is not developed enough for such commercial applications. therapies are still in developmental stages although there have been significant breakthroughs. therapies utilizing adult stem cells are even quite commonplace: for example, bone marrow transplants to treat leukemia is a form of multipotent progenitor cell use.

in other words, the stuff they're promising is not quite out of the lab yet. there is no scientific evidence provided for amatokin and they're required to submit their advertising to asa in the uk due to misleading information. and while lumene takes it a little easier by only promising protection for the precious cells, i'd like to see some kind of scientific proof. more accurately, i'd like to know how the application of "apple extract and arctic white peat" on your skin becomes stem cell technology if you're neither applying stem cells on your skin nor affecting the stem cells' activity? [edit: now the article claims that the apple extract has apple stem cell extract so they are using plant stem cell technology.]

as far as i can tell, it utilizes [human] stem cell technology only as a reference, that is saying that there are stem cells (which are actually progenitor cells) in the skin of your face, [edit: and you're adding the apple stem cell extract] because whatever "protecting" the cells actually means (promoting hibernation which means less activity? increasing activity which may, at worst, mean cancer? no, only "protection") it basically amounts to nothing new. supposedly, apple stem cell extract could guard against uv-rays, but we've got sun screen already, don't we girls? and i actually prefer one that protects all my skin cells (hahahahaha). the cream itself may be an ok moisturizer, as probably amatokin is, but the sales pitch is bull.

i hate it when they act contemptuous. we're not suckers, now are we?

[edit: wow! it took somebody at the company behind lumene about 30 minutes to find my posting after their web-solutions company tracked my little rant... well, perhaps they'll provide some extra info for us, then.]

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