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I heard on the radio this morning that it's rumoured that Victoria Beckham is using a "new" treatment including sheep placenta.

The 38-year-old is a regular at Beverly Hills dermatologist Dr Harold Lancer, who uses the treatment said to work because of the power of the beneficial sheep’s stem cells to regenerate skin cells.

Dr Lancer, whose offices are on world famous Rodeo Drive, ensures his sheep placentas come from prime New Zealand stock for the £320-a-time treatment.

He said: “These sheep are completely untouched by the modern world.

“It is very important as they have no impurities in their system whatsoever. The stem cells we harvest are amniotic cells which means no harm is caused to the animals.

Indeed on a quick research, this is not an entirely new treatment. Here's an article from the Daily Mail from a year ago on this very subject.

Aesthetic surgeon Dr Roberto Viel uses the placentas for his Actistem treatment, which costs £600, takes 30 minutes and lasts for up to five months. He says Actistem works by stimulating your own collagen production from within by infusing your skin with a particular protein contained in the placenta. They are packed with stem cells, which replenish and rebuild other cells, and fibroblasts which build up collagen and elastin to make the skin firmer.

Now, to me this seems like dodgy science, and unproven, and what articles I found in a search say things about stem cells in the placenta interfering with free radicals which sounds a bit like woo to me.

So what I want to know, its there any proper evidence that such treatments work? Or any studies at all as to their efficacy?

  • Stem cells and free radicals aren't exactly woo. But ingesting stem cells and expecting health benefits does indeed sound like woo to me. – Flimzy May 21 '12 at 14:19
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    They get the placenta from Australia? There are tens of million sheep in the UK, and you have to ship placenta from the other side of the world? – Oddthinking May 21 '12 at 14:54
  • @Flimzy These aren't ingested, but are put into some kind of face pack I believe to repair the skin. I didn't even know there was such a thing as Sheep Placenta pills though. Wow. – NotJarvis May 22 '12 at 9:11
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    (Turns out the articles differ about Australia versus New Zealand sources. I'm still laughing at the suggestion that New Zealand is not part of the "modern world" and look forward to taunting my NZ friends about it.) – Oddthinking May 22 '12 at 9:45
  • @NotJarvis: That sounds pretty wacky too :) – Flimzy May 22 '12 at 17:09
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There seems to be a little confusion in the original statements quoted from the Mirror. First they say they use sheep placental tissue, and then they say they use amniotic fluid derived stem cells. The latter is taken from the sheep uterus under ultrasound guided aspiration.

As to the efficacy of these treatments, I guess once we see wool growing over Victoria Beckham's eyes, we will know it worked.

In the meantime, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) released a position statement on the use of stem cells ( from humans I would imagine ) in aesthetic surgery:

Based on a systematic review of the peer-reviewed literature, the task force concluded that while there is tremendous potential for the future use of stem cells in aesthetic surgical procedures, the scientific evidence and other data are very limited in terms of assessing the safety or efficacy of stem cell therapies in aesthetic medicine

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