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Business

Lifeline Skin Care

Biotech Firm Adds Human Cell Extracts To Cosmetics

by Marc S. Reisch
July 18, 2011 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 89, Issue 29

Taking biotechnology in the service of beauty one step further, Lifeline Skin Care has developed a nonembryonic stem cell extract that it says reduces skin wrinkles, improves tone, and aids elasticity. In November 2010, the firm incorporated the extract into its own skin care line and offered it for sale on the Internet. The Defensive Day Moisture Serum and the Recovery Night Moisture Serum cost $160 and $190, respectively, for a 45-day supply. Through March, the firm had serum sales of $1 million, says President Ruslan Semechkin.

Associating stem cells with cosmetic ingredients “risks trivializing” the field of stem cell research, says Mary Dev-ereaux, a bioethicist at the University of California, San Diego. Semechkin admits that International Stem Cell Corp. (ISCO), Lifeline’s parent, developed the skin care line to bring in new revenues. But the profits go to furthering the start-up firm’s main thrust: developing parthenogenic stem cell lines to cure diseases. And because the egg cells are not fertilized, they avoid complications associated with the destruction of human embryos, Semechkin argues.

Devereaux, who has worked with ISCO as a consultant, wonders whether the firm has obtained consent to use the cells for cosmetic purposes from women who have donated the eggs. Semechkin tells C&EN that although the women who donate eggs do so to advance treatment of human diseases, they are also informed about the cosmetic use. “We are transparent with them,” he says.

Despite her skepticism, Devereaux says, “You can take the high road and restrict stem cells to medical research, but that’s not to say a scientist wouldn’t want to take advantage of a cosmetics breakthrough.” She adds, “If it works, I’d try it.”

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