Our Aging Skin and Umbilical Cord Stem Cells: A Chance at Youth

by | Feb 1, 2024 | Aging, Skin Care & Wellness, Stem Cell Therapy | 0 comments

No matter how much we want to deny it, we all get older. And many of us are looking for ways to age gracefully. From facial treatment and creams to diets, we are always on the lookout for ways to age better.

Now, there’s something new on the horizon: umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells, or UC-MSCs for short. These cells are found naturally in our bodies and are emerging as a promising treatment in regenerative medicine. It uses the science of these powerful cells and their natural processes to support healthier aging and rejuvenating the skin.

What happens as we age

Aging, simply put, is the gradual slowing of vital bodily functions, including those crucial for survival and reproduction. 1 This complex process begins at the cellular level, where aging cells increasingly struggle with their normal functions, affecting overall bodily health.

The causes of aging can be categorized into three main groups: 2

  1. Molecular Hallmarks involve changes in DNA, genetic alterations, cellular recycling, and mitochondrial function. These lead to DNA damage, reduced cell division, altered gene expression, harmful protein accumulation, and decreased cellular energy.
  2. Cellular Hallmarks impact cell division, stem cell availability, mitochondrial dysfunction, and cell communication. This results in impaired tissue repair, functional disruptions, and increased risk of developing chronic diseases.
  3. Systemic alterations are primarily related to changes in nutrient sensing, or how our body responds and uses nutrients from food. As we age, cells may not effectively use nutrients, leading to imbalances and health issues like metabolic disorders.

How aging affects our skin

Our skin, unlike other organs, is exposed to environmental factors like UV rays and varying weather conditions. It also interacts with products such as sunscreens and lotions. Skin serves two primary functions: 1.) it acts as a protective barrier against external elements and 2.) helps in regulating body temperature through blood vessels and sweat glands. Additionally, it contributes to our sense of touch, immune function, hormone regulation, and social interactions, all of which can diminish with age.3

Photoaging, or aging due to UV exposure, is particularly evident in areas of our body frequently exposed to sunlight like the face, neck, and forearms. The most common signs of aging in these areas include dryness, pigmentation changes, wrinkles, and reduced elasticity.4 The skin is one of the most challenging areas to treat because of all these factors. It’s also the part of the body where we tend to see aging first, and therefore want to treat it the fastest and most effectively.

The most common treatments for aging skin are physical treatments that involve removing or manipulating skin layers, stimulating healthy cell growth with light and lasers and injections to reduce signs of aging. These can be costly, painful and often need to be done repeatedly as they only address the symptoms of aging not the underlying cause. This is where UC-MSCs come in. They have the potential to act on the aging process where it starts, in the cells.

What are umbilical cord MSCs

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a potent source of regenerating cells. They are “multipotent”, meaning they have the capability of transforming into different cell types like bone, cartilage, and fat. They’re also valued for their self-renewal ability, maintaining their numbers over time which is hugely beneficial in regenerative medicine. MSCs are also notable for their low risk of triggering immune responses and their ability to regulate these responses. 5

While MSCs can be sourced from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood, and adipose tissue, umbilical cord MSCs (UC-MSCs) are particularly effective. They have demonstrated faster multiplications than cells from other sources and can differentiate into three primary cell layers, playing a key role in tissue repair. 6 Their immunomodulatory effects make it so they can move around the body towards tissue damage or inflammation and accumulate in areas that need tissue repair.

They stand out due to their non-invasive collection method, lower infection risk, multipotency, minimal tumor risk, and low immunogenicity (the likelihood of triggering an immune response). 7 They’re a less controversial and more convenient option compared to adipose and bone marrow stem cells, making them an excellent choice for therapy.

How UC-MSCs support aging in skin

UC-MSCs are rich in various growth factors crucial for skin rejuvenation. A study highlighting five specific growth factors studied UC-MSCs both in the lab (in vitro) and with human subjects (in vivo) to assess the effects they had on aging skin. The researchers discovered that applying UC-MSCs topically increased skin density and reduced wrinkles in older women. Additionally, in lab tests, UC-MSCs were found to be more effective than other types of MSCs in enhancing the production of the extracellular matrix, a key factor in skin rejuvenation. Compared to other MSC sources, UC-MSCs seemed more effective in stimulating skin repair processes.8

Additional research demonstrates that UC-MSCs may effectively reverse skin aging. In this study, two aging models were used: one with mice and another with human participants. Mice treated with UC-MSCs showed notable improvements in their skin, such as fewer wrinkles and increased thickness. For human subjects, UC-MSCs facilitated cell mobility and repair, reduced oxidative stress (which can cause inflammation), and balanced aging indicators. These benefits are attributed to UC-MSCs’ ability to boost antioxidant levels and collagen production, contributing to younger-looking skin and minimizing signs of aging.9

Another promising use of UC-MSCs is in wound healing, especially important as our skin’s ability to recover declines with age. Wharton’s jelly, found in the umbilical cord, is a rich source of MSCs. Research has shown that MSCs from Wharton’s jelly are particularly effective in healing skin wounds due to their ability to enhance paracrine signaling. This type of cell communication is key in initiating healing in surrounding cells. Using Wharton’s jelly MSCs for wound care in older adults could therefore be a highly effective treatment strategy. 10

The Takeaway

While there’s more to learn about UC-MSCs in skin aging, the current findings are quite encouraging. As our aging population seeks effective and authentic treatments, UC-MSCs show great potential as a foundational approach to aging. They address common skin aging issues like wrinkles and sagging, and also play a crucial role in skin healing. Their potential in enhancing skin repair and rejuvenation holds great promise for future skincare and anti-aging therapies.


  1. Gilbert, S.F. Aging: The Biology of Senescence in Developmental Biology. 6th edition (Sinauer Associates, 2000).
  2. Guo, J., Huang, X., Dou, L. Mingjing, Y., Shen, T.(2022) Aging and aging-related diseases: from molecular mechanisms to interventions and treatments. Sig Transduct Target Ther 7, 391 .
  3. Rittié, L., & Fisher, G. J. (2015). Natural and sun-induced aging of human skin. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine, 5(1), a015370.
  4. Tanveer, M.A., Rashid, H., Tasduq, S. (2023). Molecular basis of skin photoaging and therapeutic interventions by plant-derived natural product ingredients: A comprehensive review. Heliyon.9:3.
  5. Li, Z., Hu, X., & Zhong, J. F. (2019). Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Characteristics, Function, and Application. Stem cells international, 2019, 8106818.
  6. Nishimura, T., Yamaguchi, S., Yoshimura, K., Rubinstein, P., & Takahashi, T. A. (2011). Isolation and characterization of mesenchymal stem cells from human umbilical cord blood: reevaluation of critical factors for successful isolation and high ability to proliferate and differentiate to chondrocytes as compared to mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow and adipose tissue. Journal of cellular biochemistry, 112(4), 1206–1218.
  7. Nagamura-Inoue, T., & He, H. (2014). Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells: Their advantages and potential clinical utility. World journal of stem cells, 6(2), 195–202.
  8. Kim, Y.-J., Seo, D.H, Lee, S.H, Lee, S-H, An, G-H, Ahn, H-J, Kwon, D., Seo, K-!, Kang, K-S. 2018.. Conditioned media from human umbilical cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells stimulate rejuvenation function in human skin. Biochem. Biophys. Rep. 16, 96–102.
  9. Li, T., Zhou, L., Fan, M., Chen, Z., Yan, L., Lu, H., Jia, M., Wu, H., & Shan, L. (2022). Human Umbilical Cord-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells Ameliorate Skin Aging of Nude Mice Through Autophagy-Mediated Anti-Senescent Mechanism. Stem cell reviews and reports, 18(6), 2088–2103.
  10. Arno, A.I., Amini-Nik, S., Blit, P.H., Al-Shehab, M., Belo, C., Herer, E., Tien, C.H., Jeschke, M.G. 2014. Human Wharton’s jelly mesenchymal stem cells promote skin wound healing through paracrine signaling. Stem Cell Res Ther 5, 28.

You Might Also Like

How Mscs Can Help Delay Aging In The Brain

How Mscs Can Help Delay Aging In The Brain

Brain health is one of our biggest concerns for the aging population. As we age, our cells slow down and stop working. When this happens, we start to see changes in how our body and brains function. We may experience slower movements and stiffness, drier skin, and...