Multi-Center, Double-Blind, Vehicle-Controlled Clinical Trial of an Alpha and Beta Defensin-Containing Anti-Aging Skin Care Regimen With Clinical, Histopathologic, Immunohistochemical, Photographic, and Ultrasound Evaluation

April 2018 | Volume 17 | Issue 4 | Original Article | 426 | Copyright © April 2018

Amy Taub MD,a Vivian Bucay MD,b Gregory Keller MD,c Jay Williams PhD,c and Darius Mehregan MDd

aAdvanced Dermatology/Skinfo, Lincolnshire, IL; Northwestern University Medical School, Department of Dermatology, Chicago, IL bBucay Center for Dermatology and Aesthetics, San Antonio, TX cGregory Keller Plastic Surgery, Santa Barbara, CA dWayne State University, Monroe, MI

Background/Objectives: Anti-aging strategies utilizing stem cells are in the forefront. Alpha and beta defensins are natural immune peptides that have been shown to activate an LGR6-positive stem cell locus in the hair follicle, identified as the source of most new epidermal cells during acute wound healing. We investigated the ability of biomimetic alpha and beta defensin molecules, supplemented with supportive cosmetic ingredients, formulated into three skin care products, at improving the structure and function of aging skin. Methods: A participant- and investigator -blinded, placebo-controlled, multi-center trial was performed in outpatient settings. Forty-four healthy female subjects, aged 41-71 years, skin types I-V, completed the study with 2/3 receiving full formula and 1/3 receiving the placebo formula. A skin care regimen of 3 products (serum, cream, and mask) containing alpha-defensin 5 and beta-defensin 3, and other cosmetic ingredients, was applied to the face, post-auricular, and neck skin two times per day for 12 weeks in those receiving full formula, whereas the placebo group received the identically packaged regimen without the active ingredients. Methods of evaluation included histopathology and immunohistochemistry (7 subjects), clinical evaluation of pores, superficial and deep wrinkles based on Griffiths scale, and high-resolution photography (all subjects). In addition, a subset of 15 patients were evaluated with the QuantifiCare system (3-dimensional imaging and skin care scores for evenness, pores, oiliness) and Cortex measurements (high-resolution skin ultrasound, TEWL, elasticity, color, and hydration). Data points for evaluation included baseline, 6 weeks, and 12 weeks. All patients used the same sunscreen and cleanser, which was provided to them. Results: The full formula regimen caused a significantly (P equals 0.027) increased thickness of the epidermis as seen in histology, not seen in the placebo group, with no signs of inflammation. No excessive cell proliferation was detected in either group as measured by Ki67-immunohistochemistry. Reduction in visible pores, superficial wrinkles, oiliness, pigmentation, and improvement of skin evenness, were statistically significant. A trend for improvement was also observed in skin elasticity, TEWL, and hydration; these did not achieve statistical significance. Ultrasound and histopathology demonstrated increases in dermal thickness in individual patients, without statistical significance. Comprehensive improvement in all 5 parameters, including visible pores, hyperpigmentation, superficial and deep wrinkles, and epidermal thickness, was statistically significant when the subset of participants assigned for histology in full formula group was compared with the placebo group participants. Conclusions: A 3-product skin care regimen containing alpha and beta defensins globally improves the visual appearance and structure of aging skin without irritation, dryness, or inflammation. Specifically, this regimen increases epidermal thickness, reduces appearance of pores, reduces wrinkles, and reduces melanin. This skin care regimen stimulates rejuvenation without evidence of increase of a marker of carcinogenic stimulation. This data is consistent with the hypothesis that a defensin-containing skin care regimen activates the body’s own dormant stem cells to generate healthy new epidermal cells.

J Drugs Dermatol. 2018;17(4):426-441.



The human epidermis consists of layers of keratinocytes at various levels of differentiation, ranging from the mitotically active basal layer to the dead attened cells of the stratum corneum.1,2 Epidermal appendages include the hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and sweat glands, which extend into the dermis.3 The epidermis is maintained and regenerated by basal layer stem cells.2Multipotent stem cells have paved the way for new applications and deeper understanding in the field of regenerative medicine and the pathophysiology of aging.4,5 Various studies have characterized dermatological stem cell populations and their coordination with one another (Figure 1).1-3,6-10 Basal epidermal stem cells proliferate and maintain