In a previous entry (link to article “Stem cells and facial anti-aging”), we discussed skin aging and different techniques used for skin rejuvenation. In short, when we age our skin becomes thinner and loses elasticity. This is mainly due to a gradual loss of collagen and elastin, the elastic tissue of the skin. In addition, we also lose volume of different types of facial tissues, including fat, bone, and cartilage, which contributes to the “skeletal” appearance we develop as we age. Although this is a natural process, it can be worsened by lifestyle and the environment, for example, smoking or excessive exposure to sunlight.

Besides prevention, such as protection from the UVs coming from sunlight, there are some techniques used to make our faces look younger. The most popular are facelifts, in which excess skin is removed and the tissues under the skin are tightened. Another possibility is fat grafting, where fat is inserted under the skin to make it look “fuller”. Recently, another technique with much potential has been studied, stem cell treatment. The biggest advantage of using stem cells is that the skin will not only look younger, it will also become younger. Indeed, stem cells have the potential of becoming several types of cells, including the cells needed for making skin, as well as fat or bone. On top of that, stem cells secrete many products, such as cytokines (cellular messengers important in wound healing) and growth factors, which are important in cell growth and maintaining skin tissues.

What are these growth factors?

There are many types of growth factors, including Epithelial Growth Factor (EGF), basic Fibroblast Growth Factor (bFGF), Platelet Derived Growth Factor (PDGF), Hepatocyte Growth Factor (HGF), and growth differentiation factor-11 (GDF-11). Many of these are secreted by human umbilical cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells. A recent study looked into the benefits that these stem cell-derived growth factors could have on Human Dermal Fibroblasts (HDFs), which are responsible for producing the extracellular matrix forming the connective tissue of the skin, and play a crucial role during wound healing.

Scientists from the Seoul National University, in Korea, grew umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells over a period of 96 hours, and then collected the media in which these cells were grown. This media contained all the cytokines and growth factors that the stem cells secreted during that time, including the growth factors mentioned above. Then, they treated HDFs with this media and showed that the stem cell-derived media stimulated growth and extracellular matrix production of the HDFs. Specifically, they showed that one of those growth factors, the growth differentiation factor-11 (GDF-11), accelerated growth, migration and production of extracellular matrix of HDFs.

Encouraged by these results, the researchers used a topical treatment made of the umbilical cord blood stem cell-derived media on 18-55 years-old women, daily for 4 weeks. Not only was there no adverse reaction of the skin, but skin density was increased and wrinkles of the eye-end area were significantly decreased. This study adds on to the growing knowledge about the great potential stem cells have for skin rejuvenation and opens the door to effective and safe approaches to achieve skin rejuvenation in the near future.


Kim YJ, Seo DH, Lee SH, et al. 2018. Conditioned media from human umbilical cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells stimulate rejuvenation function in human skin. Biochem Biophys Rep. 2018;16:96-102. 



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