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The ethics of stem-cell use continues to be debated-but that hasn’t slowed the beauty biz from jumping in. Are these medical-miracle cells the secret to tricking aging skin into acting young again? April Long investigates
On the brave-new-world end of the stem cell spectrum, there's new buzz-brand Lifeline. Starting with a supply of eggs donated specifically for the brand's use by women at several California IVF clinics, Lifeline tricks the eggs into thinking they've been fertilized, then captures the magic brew of proteins and amino acids produced by their stem cells for use in its skin-care range. While the idea of applying a face cream derived from human eggs may be off-putting to many, "It's an important distinction that the oocytes are not actually fertilized, so there's no sperm involved, and every single piece of the genetic material is removed," says New York City-based dermatologist and clinical associate professor of dermatology at NYU School of Medicine Elizabeth Hale, MD, who endorses the products. The practice's scientific legitimacy is bolstered by Lifeline's position as a subsidiary of International Stem Cell Corporation-a biotech company that contributes to medical stem-cell research for Parkinson's-and liver-disease treatments, and the first to devise a form of nonembryonic human-stem-cell cultivation, which allows it, as Lifeline COO Simon Craw says, to "sidestep" any of the ethical issues involved in human embryo use. And, because a single egg is capable of generating countless stem cells, very few are needed.