The advent of sagging skin and wrinkles may bring on the worry lines on the forehead, especially when it comes to the fairer sex. While botox and chemical treatments came to the rescue earlier, now there’s a new quick fix in India and it goes by the name of stem cell therapy. The latter which has gained much popularity in the West, is slowly gaining ground here. While a few clinics have already adopted it, a majority still look at the concept with skepticism.
Stem cells are those floating cells in our blood which can be transformed to perform any function. Taking advantage of its ability to morph, it has been widely used in bone marrow transplants, helping cure cancer and alleviate suffering.
Credits to the genius who thought of using it as an anti-aging catalyst. Ramanjit Singh, senior consultant cosmetologist, Medanta Medicity, Gurgaon, explains how stem cells can intervene in the aging process, “As one ages, one loses the volume on their face—under the eyes, around the temples and from the apple of the cheeks. The skin becomes loose and saggy as the fat is all absorbed. There is a decline in secretion of collagen that is instrumental in keeping the skin tight and supple. This creates hollowness, depression and wrinkles.”
For long now, this issue has been tackled at a superficial level with practices such as botox, which includes injection of a material called botulinum toxin to relax the frowning muscles, or facelift surgery that removes excess facial skin to make the skin look younger. Also the magical shots of fillers like hyaluronic acid has helped gain that excess volume on skin and lips, blemishing the wrinkles. However, all these procedures help retain the effect only for six to eight months, after which the process has to be repeated. In contrast, stem cell therapy’s impact can stay for almost eight years, says Singh.
This is because stem cell therapy addresses the root cause of the issue, which is lack of collagen. Stem cells are infested into the portion of saggy skin, wherein they grow into cells that secrete this viable protein. Singh says, “It is all about taking cells from your own body where the fat is in excess, like the tummy, and then treating it to get the stem cells, followed by injecting it in wrinkled places. It is chemical free and there are no side effects.”
Singh adds that unlike surgical facelift, wherein a patient has to go for general anesthesia and be in the hospital for six to eight days, in stem cell therapy, the whole process takes just 10 hours without any downtime, hospitalisation or use of anaesthesia. “What more, the cost is also lesser than the surgical treatment. While a surgery would cost `2 lakh, stem cell therapy can be done in `85,000,” he says.
Samuel J K Abraham, director of Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM), Chennai, has another take on the therapy. He says, “In India it is not much used in cosmetology. Also, a more accepted concept is that of fibroblast.”
Instead of injecting a stem cell and allowing it to grow into a mature fibroblast, it is developed in the laboratory and then injected into the target area. Speaking from Japan, Abraham says that this practice, which costs six to seven lakh, has been in use there for the past decade, but not yet in India. “Stem cell therapy is still experimental, whereas cell-based therapies like fibroblast are already in practice,” he adds.
Vivek Kumar, consultant, plastic and cosmetic surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, cannot agree more. While he doesn’t refute a definite future for stem cells in cosmetology, he says that at present there is not enough scientific evidence about its outcome.
According to Jayanthy Ravindran, consultant cosmetic surgeon, Kauvery Hospital, Chennai, the challenge in this therapy is to match the stem cell which you have with the one you inject. Also, she says, “In the market today, it’s not the human stem cells, but the plant derived stem cells which are in use. They are all growth factor stimulators. If you take stem cell therapy for hair, there wouldn’t be actual regrowth but the hair fall will stop. In the actual therapy, a bald head should start growing hair,” she says. However, clinical trials are going on for stem cell therapy and FDA is yet to approve it, she adds.
■ Stem cells where there is excess fat are infested into the portion of saggy and wrinkled skin.
■ They grow into cells that secrete collagen.
■ It is chemical free, costs less than surgical face lift, needs no hospitalisation and has no side effects.