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Exosomes: Active Ingredient in cosmetics


Since exosomes are circulating in body fluids, they can not only transfer information to local cells but also to remote cells. For this reason, exosomes are considered potential active principle for various treatments. Recently, studies have also demonstrated the efficacy of exosomes in skin conditions such as aging, atopic dermatitis (AD) and wounds. In addition, exosomes are being studied for use as ingredients in products commercialized for skin treatments.

In this article we are going to explain the main aspects related to the use of exosomes as active ingredient in cosmetics.

What are active ingredients in cosmetics

In general, the treatment of the previously mentioned skin conditions (aging, AD and wound healing) is based on topical or invasive strategies with chemical, biological and physical agents, but as we have mentioned before, exosomes are becoming a key element in the research of non-invasive treatments for these deficiencies.

Active ingredients used in cosmetics

First of all we are going to start defining the key concept for this subject… what is an active ingredient in a drug product?

An active ingredient is any component of a drug product intended to provide pharmacological activity or other direct effect in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, or to affect the structure or any function of the body of humans or other animals.

In this regard, recent studies have shown that exosomes have several beneficial properties for the regeneration of skin tissue: angiogenic capacity, collagen synthesis and regulation of inflammation. And so, we can say that by using exosomes as an ingredient, the current shortcomings of skin treatments can be addressed.

Difference between active and inactive ingredients in cosmetics

Regardless of whether they are active or inactive, all components of a drug are relevant. The main difference between active and inactive ingredients is that active ingredients are the components of a drug that have a therapeutic effect on the body, whereas inactive ingredients are the components of a drug that have non-medicinal relevance. Therefore, an active ingredient in a drug or other product carries out the therapeutic effect of the drug or the required result of the product. However, the inactive ingredient in the drug or product performs a job that has many functions: filling, binding, flavoring, coloring, preserving, buffering, coating, and so on.

Active ingredients in skin care cosmetics

In recent years, various studies have been reported studying the efficacy of exosomes for skin tissue regeneration, and many other skin deficiencies. However, so far, there are many other ingredients that have been used as active ingredients in this area.

There are many ingredients, some active and some inactive, that have been used for skin care and treatment, and this is the reason why it is very difficult sometimes to decide which products we use for our skin, because we never know exactly what their ingredients do for our skin. Some of the most common ingredients used in skin products are:

Alpha hydroxy acids: which are common in anti-aging products.

Benzoyl peroxide: which are common in cleansers aimed at fighting acne

Beta hydroxy acids: commonly used to prevent or clear up blemishes, breakouts, and blackheads, and to even out skin tone.

Ceramides: which bind skin cells together to create a strong barrier against damage.

Hyaluronic acid: The substance hyaluronic acid occurs naturally in the human body, and is often used to increase concentrations in order to achieve younger looking skin.

Hydroquinone: Used to lighten hyperpigmentation (melasma) as it relates to hormonal changes or pregnancy.

Niacinamide: commonly used to hydrate the skin and even skin tone, among other reasons.

Retinoids: Used to decrease the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, to improve uneven skin tone and pigmentation, and hydrate the skin to prevent dryness.

Exosomes: the new key active ingredient for skin care and treatments

Finally, exosomes have been studied in various skin conditions. Wound healing is divided into five stages: inflammation, epithelialization, wound contraction, collagen deposition and remodeling. Intercellular communication is essential in wound healing, as it requires a coordinated effort of keratinocytes, fibroblasts, macrophages and inflammatory cells.

In this sense, exosomes from macrophages, a white blood cell located in a tissue derived from monocytes, promote wound healing by stimulating cell proliferation and angiogenesis.

These macrophage-derived exosomes cause conversion of M1 macrophages to M2 macrophages, resulting in enhanced fibroblast migration, collagen production, and endothelial cell tube formation.

In addition, exosomes can help minimize scar formation. Zhang et al. demonstrated that exosomes from mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), cells present in the hypodermis,  promoted wound healing and reduced scar width.

Another study showed that exosomes derived from dermal papilla cells promoted the development of hair follicles.

Therefore, these and many other studies have indicated that exosomes show promise as a cell-free method to improve wound healing and reduce scarring. In addition, exosomes can act as cargo for drug delivery systems (DDS) and, in particular, exosomes are very interesting for their use for therapy in skin treatments.

Exosomes: new active ingredients in cosmetics

As we have addressed in previous articles, exosomes are small extracellular vesicles that are released from cells upon fusion of an intermediate endocytic compartment, the multivesicular body (MVB), with the plasma membrane. They are thought to provide a means of intercellular communication and of transmission of macromolecules between cells allowing the spread of proteins, lipids, mRNA, miRNA and DNA and as contributing factors in the development of several diseases. Exosomes can also modulate cancer microenvironment and the immune response. Discover more about exosomes composition and biogenesis in this article.

In this sense, exosomes have the ability to transport biomolecules such as proteins, DNA and RNA. Therefore, depending on the cell type, we can obtain exosomes with different therapeutic capabilities. For example, exosomes secreted by cardiac progenitor cells prevent myocardial cells against oxidative stress-related apoptosis. (Discover more about apoptosis in this article).

Key application of exosomes: skin regeneration and repair

The skin is a vital organ that not only serves as a preventive barrier against environmental factors, but also plays a role in the synthesis, processing and metabolism of structural biomolecules. Skin injuries, such as chronic wounds, flap necrosis and inflammatory skin diseases, can inhibit the skin’s ability to regenerate.

Exosomes are an emerging bioactive substance in multiple biochemical and cellular processes in the skin In fact, skin wound healing partially comes down to intercellular interaction via exosomes among various skin cells. However, a better understanding of the mechanism of exosomes in dermatology will help to create cell-free treatments in skin regeneration and repair.


Key application of exosomes: anti-aging treatments

Since early times, people have been working to improve the quality of their skin through anti-aging treatments.

In recent years, the effects of exosomes on various skin defects have been extensively studied. The main advantages of exosomes are their high stability, non-immune rejection and direct stimulation of target cells. Especially, miRNAs contained in exosomes participate in the post-transcriptional regulation of various cellular responses. Therefore, a single ingredient, which are the exosomes, can provide multiple therapeutic effects.

Exosome isolation techniques

In conclusion, exosomes have demonstrated their potential in various fields of tissue regeneration, including skin. However, some limitations remain to be solved.

One of these limitations is that it is extremely important to elucidate the natural ingredients intrinsically packed in the nanometer-sized cargo. Therefore, specific and high-throughput methods for the isolation and characterization of exosomes are needed to continue this research.

Since it is crucial to isolate high quality exosomes in order to study all the possibilities to use these vesicles in cosmetic products, various isolation techniques have been introduced so far.

In this sense, Immunostep have developed an extensive line of high quality kits and reagents for the isolation and characterization of exosomes, aiming to improve performance efficiency and to help researchers to discover new applications of exosomes in many different areas, such as skin cosmetics and therapeutics.

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