The science behind beauty | human v plant-derived growth factors

In part 1 of our Science behind Beauty blog, we looked at how award-winning science is changing the face of the cosmetics industry. In part 2, we discuss human and plant-derived growth factors.

As mentioned in our previous post, growth factors are cellular messengers produced by the body to communicate with neighbouring cells. Their purpose is to stimulate and grow cells to repair damage.

All human cells can produce growth factors. As we age however, the number of growth factors the body makes starts to decline. Fortunately, now growth factors can be bio-engineered in a lab and applied topically. And using a skin care regime comprising these potent proteins may just be the answer to turning back the clock on ageing skin!

Types of growth factors

Biotechnology has generated several sources of growth factors over the past decade that can be used on humans:

  • human stem cells (NOT embryonic fetuses),
  • platelet rich plasma, extracted from a person’s own blood, and
  • non-human sources, such as plants, and even snails.

However, not all scientists are convinced that plant and human cells can interact.

Human stem cells

Human growth factors are grown in laboratories from skin cells, bone marrow stem cells, and fat stem cells.

Some scientists believe that growth factors derived from particular human cells are more beneficial in repairing that tissue. For example, growth factors produced from bone marrow stem cells will be more suited for the functioning of bone marrow.

Medical studies have even found that human stem cell-derived growth factors can reduce healing time because of powerful anti-inflammatory effects, therefore have the potential to play a major part in post-operative care.

Plant-derived stem cells

While some scientists are adamant that only human stem cells, or fibroblasts, are suitable to maintain optimum skin health, there is growing support for plant-derived growth factors.

What makes the discovery of plant-derived stem cells so exciting is the fact that they never age. In fact, they are immortal. And some scientists, including those at Trulux, believe they are more sensitive to human DNA damage than other stem cells.

Studies over the past decade have shown that applying growth factors topically in a daily skin care regime can:

  • reduce fine lines and wrinkles,
  • improve skin texture and dry skin
  • increase elasticity, and
  • decrease age spots and discolouration.

The down side to growth factors is, harvesting this potent power is complicated – and costly.

Topically applied products containing growth factors

Plant-derived growth factors used in skin care today include apple stem cells and barley.

Apple stem cells are derived from a rare Swiss apple tree known for its longevity, while Icelandic scientists’ bio-engineer a replica of the naturally occurring human protein found within barley. Both provide remarkable rejuvenation to ageing skin.

Image courtesy of

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