ข่าวสำหรับประชาชน

ที่มา: Bangkok Post
12 มกราคม 2553
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Attention, ladies! Come over here. We present you with a way to rejuvenate your skin and take years off your current look. You will feel and, of course, look different.

And no, we are not talking about stem cell facial therapy as advertised on the internet, in leaflets or other media channels.

"Cut out smoking, alcohol and keep away from strong sunlight. Avoid being exposed to toxic substances, have regular exercise and enough rest," Assoc Prof Nopadon Noppakun from the Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine, Chulalongkorn University suggested as simple ways to maintaining healthy skin.

In the belief that stem cell facial treatments widely available in beauty clinics can give people a more youthful look, a fair number of them are willing to squeeze their wallets and spend big money on treatment that promises to erase wrinkles - the signs of ageing.

Stem cells injected into the face as well as stem cell anti-ageing cream have come into fashion with the promise to bring back a wrinkle-free and younger face. But the question is: How good are these stem cell beauty treatments? Are these therapies, which can sometimes cost up to a million baht per course of stem cell injections, able to renew the skin as they boast?

To reach those answers, it is paramount, Dr Nopadon said, that we have a thorough understanding and comprehensive knowledge regarding stem cells including what they are and how they actually function.

We have often heard of stem cells, but what actually are they?

Stem cells, according to the dermatologist, are cells in the body characterised by their ability to change into other types of cells as well as their ability to self-regenerate. There are two types of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells, as their name suggests, are taken from the inner cell mass of a developing embryo. The use of embryonic stem cells in medical research and treatments is still a global controversial issue given the ethical aspects.

Adult stem cells, on the other hand, are found in all tissues of a growing human being as well as in the umbilical cord of newborn infants and can also transform into other cell types. The best-known adult stem cell therapy to date is stem cell transplants, better known as bone marrow transplants, which are generally used to treat leukaemia, thalassaemia as well as several other types of blood disorders.

"This technique has so far been the only stem cell-related treatment that is medically and scientifically approved. The rest is still at an experimental stage with no accepted study result," noted Dr Nopadon, also president of the Dermatological Society of Thailand.

Assoc Prof Nopadon Noppakun, president of the Dermatological Society of Thailand.

How can stem cells survive outside a human body?

Growing stem cells or even keeping them alive is not a simple procedure, commented the skin doctor. Apart from cutting-edge, sterile laboratory technology, stem cells need a proper amount of carbon dioxide, a proper acid-base balance, stem cell growth culture medium and sometimes they also need to have supporting cells from mice to survive.

There is also a technique called "deep freeze", the skin specialist continued, in which stem cells are stored at very low temperatures so that cells stop proliferating and thus can be used in the future. However, there is no scientific evidence to prove that stem cells will be able to live or remain healthy after being stored for a very long period of time.

What hope does stem cell facial therapy offer?

People expect stem cells to transform themselves into connective tissues or fibroblasts so that they can create collagen, explained Dr Nopadon. Collagen is responsible for the skin's strength and elasticity, without which lines and wrinkles will start to take over the face.

"Simply speaking, stem cell beauty treatments, be they cream or injection, are expected to repair and rejuvenate facial skin," the doctor said.

It sounds good. But is it really?

As mentioned earlier, in order for stem cells to survive, a number of significant factors must be in place. These living cells cannot survive in plain water, cream or in the air. If not stored properly, they will die.

"If we put stem cells in a bottle for injection or in cream for facial use, they will eventually die. This is the truth about stem cells. We see a lot of advertisements about stem cell cream. In fact it doesn't work because apparently there are no living cells in it," he added.

And more importantly, it is crucial to bear in mind that stem cells cannot be absorbed through the skin, so the more you apply what is believed to be a stem cell product on your skin, the more money you spend in vain.

"Scientists are now studying and experimenting with the use of stem cells in diabetes patients but the cells can only be implanted on diabetes ulcers. Yet this does not happen on the skin.

"The question I'm trying to raise is: How are they [beauty clinics] going to put stem cells into the skin? First, if the treatment is in the form of cream, can stem cells survive in cream? Even if they can, the stem cells cannot penetrate through the skin. Second, if the treatment is in the form of an injection, can stem cells survive in bottles? Are these bottles stored with a process of proper stem cell nurturing? If not, it is clear that there is no stem cell in the syringe."

Some clinics offer new means by which your own blood is processed so as to separate stem cells that are then infused back into the body, which is believed to be able to stimulate the proliferation of cells. Nonetheless, there is no scientific evidence to support that this method works.

It sounds like stem cell beauty treatments are deceiving people. But if they have not proven to be effective, why do some people notice a big difference after having an injection or using the cream?

Some places offer a new mode of stem cell facial treatment. The doctor pricks a patient's face by using a very small needle and then drops what is claimed to be stem cells onto the wound. When the face is injured, the body automatically heals itself by stimulating the production of collagen. This is why people feel that they look better after facial skin inflammation or having a swollen face.

"This needle-pricking technique may lead to infection if the process is not aseptic, so you should think very carefully if you opt for such treatment," warned Dr Nopadon, adding that cream or lotion that claims to contain stem cells may only help in terms of moisturising the skin and the result will be obvious especially in old people whose skin is usually dry.


CHECK BEFORE STEPPING INTO A BEAUTY CLINIC.

These days beauty clinics and spas are mushrooming everywhere and it is vital for consumers to check carefully before deciding to undergo treatments. One of the main threats is that a number of skin doctors in clinics have a very short learning curve, resulting in inadequate knowledge of whatever they practice.

Some only receive a few weeks of training from a medical equipment company and after that they gain real experience by providing their patients with treatments they have yet to be skilled in.

Therefore, to ensure that yours is a qualified doctor, Dr Nopadon suggested that you visit the website of the Dermatological Society of Thailand at http://www.dst.or.th and check whether your dermatologist is a member. This is because, he noted, all members of the society are qualified and certified dermatologists.

And the specialist has one final remark for those who decide to go for stem cell facial treatments.

"Stem cells used in beauty treatment might work in the future, but not now."

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