Growth Factors: What works and what’s hype?

Written by Elliott Mistein, president and CEO of Biopelle, inc.

The quest for eternal youth is as old as mankind itself; the desire of aging men and women to find methods of looking younger has been chronicled in literature since writing first began. Some of the earliest prescriptions that have survived from antiquity are elixirs for youth, creams, and salves designed to produce or maintain a youthful appearance.

Cleopatra was famous for utilizing different, natural extracts to help minimize the appearance of aging and enhance her natural beauty.

YOUTH DRIVEN TECHNOLOGIES

The demand for youth has driven research to identify new sources of skin rejuvenation and continuously bring new technologies to market. These technologies stimulate specific, metabolic pathways that help the skin to heal and rejuvenate. By identifying these pathways, and the natural substances that support and stimulate them, products that are efficacious for skin rejuvenation can be developed.
Throughout the past three decades, we have seen advances in technology have brought about different vehicles of alpha hydroxy acids, vitamins A and C, DNA repair, peptides, and tyrosinase inhibitors. Each of these ingredients targets a different pathway. Lately, there has been more interest in the growth factor pathway.

THE PURPOSE AND ROLE OF GROWTH FACTORS

Growth factors bind to cell-surface receptor sites and exert actions directly on the target cells. The results are promising; growth factors can promote the healing of damaged skin, proving to be an excellent treatment for photodamage and post-procedural recovery.
Growth factors have three basic sources: plants, animals, and humans. There are growing concerns about the safety of human-derived growth factors because they contain vascular endothelial growth factors. Increased angiogenesis secondary to excessive vascular endothelial growth factor exposure has been shown to be a fundamental step in the transition of dormant tumors to malignancies. While this concern is entirely theoretical, it is, nonetheless, a concern for many.

SNAIL-DERIVED GROWTH FACTORS

Fortunately, growth factors from animals have been shown to be effective and contain no vascular endothelial growth factors. The main source of animal-derived growth factors is the Cryptomphalus aspersa, a type of snail. A special secretion from this rare gastropod has been shown to be rich in antioxidants, glycoproteins, and fibroblast growth factors and is clinically proven to be effective against signs of photodamage. It has also been shown to promote post-procedure healing.
The use of this snail secretion has also led to a recent and bizarre skin care craze; live snails are being placed directly on the client’s face. This spa-based procedure is based on a fallacy that the secretion of a snail, used to promote mobility, is the same as the secretion used to heal itself. Although this is not true, people are paying thousands of dollars for these ‘snail facials,’ without any clinical proof of efficacy.

Growth factors target a key metabolic pathway for skin rejuvenation, but the source, strength, and purity of the growth factor is critical. Ask suppliers critical questions, including any inquires about clinical studies. Word of advice, leave the actual snails in the garden.

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