I often learn about new supposedly stem cell-related products like the LifeWave X39 Patch from readers. Sometimes such products are used by tens of thousands of people, in my view potentially raising risks to the public.
If nothing else, people might be spending their money on something that isn’t worth it.
As a stem cell biologist, how do I see LifeWave? What’s the claimed stem cell connection?
Overall, my claim review is that in my opinion the X39 patch and its health claims do not appear to have solid peer-reviewed science behind them.
What is the LifeWave X39 Patch
The LifeWave X39 patch is a device about the size of a quarter that you stick on your skin. While as best as I can tell it does not actively emit new light itself like a bulb, it is claimed to expose the skin to only certain wavelengths of light.
Here are the instructions: “Place one LifeWave X39™ patch on the body, use one of the locations shown below. Apply the patch to clean, dry skin in the morning. Patches may be worn for up to 12 hours before discarding. Keep well hydrated while using this product.”
They state that the X39 patches do several medical-related things via that light exposure:
- “Activate your stem cells!
- Patented phototherapy is designed to elevate a peptide known to enhance stem cell activity
- Supports relief of minor aches and pains.
- More energy and better sleep – must be experienced to be believed
- Supports natural wound healing process
- Maintains healthy inflammatory response”
No solid clinical trial data for LifeWave patches?
The LifeWave website instructs users to place the X39 patch on the skin of the back of the neck. How would one little patch placed there impact systemic things like the claims related to improved sleep and wound healing elsewhere?
As mentioned in the previous section, these patches are claimed to work by activating your stem cells. How would that work exactly in terms of actual biology? It’s not at all clear.
I found 6 papers from a PubMed search for “LifeWave.” None of the papers provide concrete evidence to back up the claims about the patches in my view. I also found no clinical trial listings on Clinicaltrials.gov for a search for LifeWave and no relevant results for “X39” patches.
While LifeWave points to clinical studies (see links to two examples in the References section if you want to check them out for yourselves) in support of their X39 patches, the studies I found on these patches in my opinion are not convincing as they were small, had questionable or unclear methods (e.g. just taking a sample of convenience and it’s unclear how participants were blinded to patch use in one case), were not registered on Clinicaltrials.gov, and were not published in what I consider rigorous journals that are listed on PubMed. I also have some questions on the ethics board and/or IRB approval for these studies.
At this point in my research into these products, I found there was no strong reason to think the patches would activate stem cells or do so in a meaningful way to have systemic positive effects. A little patch also only exposes a correspondingly small area of skin. Could a little patch of skin exposed to light also make the skin release helpful endogenous substances throughout the whole body? I don’t believe there is good evidence of that either.
Claimed role for GHK-Cu
I wanted to try to better understand at a molecular and cellular level what the firm was claiming the patches do to customers’ stem cells. After all, I am a cell and molecular biologist. I finally found a page with more detail on their site. It is focused in part on something called GHK-Cu. I’d never heard of it, so I looked up research on it.
A paper with first author Loren Pickart popped up. His affiliation is something called R&D Skin Biology or just Skin Biology in Bellevue, WA.
Pickart and co-author Anna Margolina claim that GHK-Cu has regenerative and protective actions. The paper seems to be full of unproven claims rather than anything convincing to me data-wise. I found a few pubs by Pickart on PubMed. None of them seem at all convincing to me to support the sale of a small skin patch product claiming to improve health via stem cell activation by GHK-Cu. One paper claims an affiliation with the Research & Development Department of Skin Biology as though it’s a large corporation or university. I don’t see evidence of that either.
The proposed mechanism whereby light triggers increases in GHK-Cu and that in turn activates stem cells also brings to mind another product that I reviewed recently. The Augustinus Bader cream products also seem to claim to work by triggering endogenous stem cells via a substance called TCF8.
No stem cell scientists?
As another potential hole in the story and red flag, I don’t see that LifeWave leadership has rigorous stem cell research experience. What’s the leadership team?
CEO David Schmidt is the inventor of the X39 patch.
On the page about Schmidt it says this: “One of his inventions, the Double Helix Conductor, produces a novel blend of electromagnetic and non-electromagnetic fields to improve the speed of wound healing that rivals that of stem-cell injections. This led to David realizing that phototherapy can be a means by which a person’s own stem cells can be activated into a more youthful state as opposed to requiring an injection of expensive and potentially dangerous stem cells . Hence, after ten years of study, the X39® patch was born.”
What about Loren Pickart whose work LifeWave cites? I don’t see that Pickart works for LifeWave.
Pickart’s co-author on the GHK-Cu papers, Anna Margolina, has her email listed as the corresponding email on the paper. I emailed her about LifeWave and GHK-Cu but got no reply.
Interestingly, the website that is the source of Margolina’s email shows her to be a hypnotist now. She also has a YouTube video on her site in which she uses a puppet to make some points.
At this point in reading up on LifeWave, I was even less convinced there’s robust stem cell science behind these patches. The claimed light-induced GHK-Cu mechanism of stem cell activation seems dubious to me. I even went to the X39 patch patent document and still didn’t find convincing evidence that the patch does something beneficial to stem cells.
Cost of LifeWave X39 patch: $150-$280
These are also expensive patches. Depending on the product, you can pay more than a hundred dollars for a month’s supply. If you use them for years, we’re talking about thousands of dollars.
Perhaps part of the money earned goes to support the firm’s abundant marketing.
One of the LifeWave celebrity ambassadors is Suzanne Somers, who I assume gets paid for this role. Long-time readers of The Niche may recall that Somers has been a believer in alternative stem cell medical approaches for a very long time. She was apparently the first person who got a stem cell breast surgery.
Overall LifeWave X39 review
I couldn’t find clear data on potential LifeWave patch side effects. Some folks on the web even claim that no side effects are possible, which is, of course, false. Anything that can activate one’s stem cells, assuming for one second that that claim is true, has the potential to do unhelpful things. So there’s at least some possible risk here.
My overall review is that the LifeWave X39 does not appear to have strong, peer-review published clinical science listed on PubMed to support its claims based on a tiny patch. There could also be side effects. If the X39 is active in the skin itself, I would imagine at most it could positively impact locally nearby issues like tissue healing.
Note that this patch approach is very different than drug patches, which contain concentrated chemicals. A drug patch releases a chemical into your body that then is distributed systemically via the bloodstream. The FDA says these transdermal drug patches are complex combinations of drugs and devices. LifeWave is not transdermal and seems to instead rely on a supposed activation of one or more endogenous substances with cells already in your own body.
I also have some concerns about LifeWave as an MLM firm. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any other science-based reviews of these patches to cite.
Overall, given the high cost and uncertainties, I would not recommend this product.
Stem cell patch research more generally
Finally, note that the term “stem cell patch” has several different meanings today. There are LifeWave bandaid-like patches, but also other very different things.
There is rigorous clinical trial research ongoing for stem cell patches meaning either a layer of stem cells or a layer of differentiated cells made from stem cells. These stem cell patches are hoped to fix damaged tissue. They might repair holes or openings in tissues. For example, I’m very excited about spina bifida research ongoing right here at UC Davis Medical School involving stem cell patches. There are also studies of stem cell patches for other damaged tissues.
So keep in mind that “stem cell patch” is a broad term.
References and notes
- PubMed search results for LifeWave, February 13, 2023.
- Clinicaltrials.gov search results.
- One X39 clinical study.
- A second X39 clinical study.
- Since I’m not a physician, I avoid giving medical advice so this post is just the general view of a cell biologist who studies stem cell-related products.
- Paper on GHK-Cu.
- The X39 patch patent document