Plastic surgeons have for some time been using stem cells to treat aging and sun damaged skin with good results. However, it has not been exactly how these treatments work to rejuvenate “protoaged” skin on the face. A new study has found that within a few weeks, stem cell treatments will eliminate the sun damaged elastin network and replace them with normal undamaged structures and tissues.
This new microscopic level study has provided the answer. Injection of a patient’s own mesenchymal stem cells or MSCs, is competent, appropriate and sufficient to elicit full structural regeneration of skin that is sun aged.
The research team assessed the molecular and cellular level effects of MSC treatments on sun damaged or photoaged facial skin. All of the 20 patients in the study with an average age of 56 years, were scheduled for facelift surgery. All patients lived in northeast Brazil which is a region where very intense sun exposure is expected.
A small sample of fat cells obtained from the abdomen of each patient was processed to create patient specific MSCs. The cultured stem cells were then injected under the skin on the face and in front of the ear. Three to four months after the patients underwent facelift surgery, the skin samples from the stem cell treated area were compared to untreated areas.
Structural and histologic analysis under a microscope demonstrated that MSC treatment led to improvements in overall structure of the skin. Treated areas showed extensive or partial reversal of sun related damage to the skin’s stretchy elastin network which is the main skin structure affected by photoaging. Additionally, in the layer that lies immediately under the skin surface, the stem cell treated areas indicated regeneration of a new and fully organized network of fiber bundles and dermal extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling changes.
In the deeper skin layer, degraded, tangled and dysfunctional deposits of sun damaged elastin were replaced by a normal network of elastin fiber. These changes were accompanied by molecular markers of processes which are involved in absorbing the abnormal elastin and development of new elastin.
The studies findings have suggested that stem cells triggered each of the many molecular and cellular level pathways which are involved in skin repair and regeneration. Using a patient’s own fat derived MSCs may be a relevant proposal for the anti-aging action of regeneration of human skin that has been photodamaged.
The team concludes that stem cells can lead to regeneration of sun aged and damaged skin. The rebuilding of structures below the skin’s surface translates to true improvements in the strength and appearance of the facial dermis.
To view the original scientific study click below