Can regenerative medicine stop the clock?


Regenerative medicine is revolutionising the world of anti-ageing and aesthetics, promoting younger looking skin from the inside out.

By kick-starting the body’s natural processes and energising cellular activity, regenerative medicine works to repair, heal and reverse the signs of ageing from within. It uses specialised cells, genes or other biological building blocks to restore, replace and repair damaged or aged tissues.

Regenerative medicine has potential in reversing and preventing damage to vital organs, growing new organs in patients with organ failure and countering the effects of neuro-degenerative diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Its success in the medical arena has extended to impact the world of aesthetics, where platelet rich plasma, stem cells and certain light therapies are used to optimise results in cosmetic enhancement.


Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) gained significant traction in the world of aesthetic medicine when celebrity Kim Kardashian posted a photo on social media during a PRP treatment. But shock value and popular trends aside, autologous PRP signifies an innovative and seemingly endlessly applicable rejuvenation therapy.

It use a concentration of platelets, from the patient’s own blood, to promote healing in both hard and soft tissues. With a history of use in orthopaedics, sports medicine, wound healing, neurosurgery, dentistry and ophthalmology, its introduction into cosmetic and plastic surgery was virtually inevitable.

The treatment involves sampling the patient’s own blood, centrifuging the sample to concentrate the platelets and growth factors in a small volume of plasma, and reinjecting the concentrated product into the treatment area.

PRP is touted to assist in rejuvenating the complexion, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, evening skin texture and brightening skin tone. It does this by triggering the skin’s own regenerative mechanisms and inducing the proliferation of fibroblasts, osteoblasts and endothelial cells.

Platelet rich plasma can be used as a standalone procedure to treat specific concerns – for example, wrinkles, scarring and dark circles under the eyes – or in conjunction with other modalities to optimise results and reduce scarring following surgery.

In fuelling the dermis with growth factors and stimulating the cell renewal process, PRP can be injected around the eyes, across the cheeks, mid-face and forehead, and along the jaw line and décolletage.

Stem cells

A definite buzzword in the world of skincare and cosmetic rejuvenation, stem cells signify the cutting-edge of regenerative science. Recent research has revealed their remarkable potential in the world of cosmetic surgery, particularly in conjunction with fat grafting. They are thought to replenish and restore the aged cells and tissues within the skin.

Fat transfer and stem cells

Fat grafting, where the patient’s own fat is harvested for use elsewhere in the body, is commonly used in cosmetic and plastic surgery. It can help achieve natural-looking results in facial rejuvenation and breast enhancement, and can be used in place of dermal fillers to restore facial volume loss.

The problem with autologous fat grafting is ‘reabsorption’, which occurs when the body absorbs volume from the fat graft following insertion.

There is, however, a unique reserve of adult stem and regenerative cells in fatty tissue, which could inhibit reabsorption and revolutionise the results seen in fat grafting procedures. Collectively, these cells are known as adipose-derived regenerative cells (ADRCs). They have been used in breast augmentation and reconstruction following mastectomy, as fillers in non-surgical facial rejuvenation and in treating a variety of soft tissue injuries.

Researchers at Copenhagen University Hospital in Denmark have recently conducted the first randomised human trial examining the outcomes of infusing fat grafts with concentrations of ADRCs in plastic surgery. They found that stem cell-enriched grafts retained 80.9 percent of their volume following insertion, compared to 16.3 percent for the standard-control grafts. Also, the presence of stem cells had an added anti-ageing effect in triggering the formation of new connective tissue, including collagen and elastin, at the treatment site.

Although the use of ADRCs alongside fat transfer is relatively new in aesthetic medicine, and further research is required to ensure the safety and efficacy of treatment, the existing research shows exciting promise for future possibilities in aesthetic and reconstructive surgery.

Stem cells in skincare

From plant extracts to reprogrammed cell lines, the use of stem cells in skincare is a competitive and ever-evolving field. Plant stem cells are commonly used in skincare and are said to automatically renew into several types of differentiated cells. They are thought to stimulate the activity of fibroblasts, which generate collagen in the dermis, and deliver phytonutrients and proteins to improve skin resilience and structure.

Moreover, the plant-derived stem cells in anti-ageing lotions are touted to reactivate the adult stem cells already present in the skin’s deeper layers. These adult stem cells are responsible for skin homeostasis, skin repair and hair regeneration, and the plant stem cells are thought to protect this natural reserve for long-term anti-ageing benefit.

Promises aside, there is limited evidence to support the efficacy of stem cells in skincare. Critics are sceptical at the ability of skincare ingredients to effectively penetrate the epidermis and act upon the skin’s deeper layers, where the production of collagen and elastin is cultivated. Similarly, the concentration of active ingredients in skincare is not always sufficient to incur any change to the skin’s processes.

Light therapy

Low-level light therapy can initiate and promote cellular processes in the skin and underlying tissue. When light energy is harnessed at a certain wavelength, this can boost cellular turnover, increase blood flow and stimulate collagen production in the dermis.

Regeneration using light at different wavelengths has been shown to accelerate wound healing, stimulate hair growth, treat active acne, and to deliver pleasing results as a non-invasive approach to facial rejuvenation.

During light treatment, and for an extended period of time following treatment, blood, oxygen and nutrients flood the treatment area. This enhances cellular processes and increases energy production for an all-encompassing, systemic effect. Notably, light therapy has been shown to incur a thermal effect, which has been used to increase movement and relieve spasms in cerebral palsy patients.

In aesthetics, light therapy helps improve skin radiance and strengthen skin structure. It accelerates the skin’s natural processes – for example collagen production and skin cell turnover – to help reverse the signs of ageing and rejuvenate the complexion.