Before undergoing stem cell enhanced cosmetic procedures, wait for more scientific research

June 1, 2011

Stem cell technology in plastic surgery is promising, but it's too early for aggressive marketing.
Stem cell technology in plastic surgery is promising, but it's too early for aggressive marketing.

It’s natural for human beings to look for a magic wand. For now, it’s stem cells. The most highly-respected plastic surgery societies, including the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), agree that although stem cell technology in the area of plastic surgery is very promising it is too early for aggressive marketing; scientific evidence is still insufficient.

But that does not stop a group of plastic surgeons from currently marketing stem cell breast augmentation and stem cell facelifts. Among them is an Irvine, CA plastic surgeon who says, “Clinical experience outweighs scientific evidence until science catches up.”

According to the Orange County Register, May 10, 2011, stem cells, extracted from a patient’s fatty tissue, can be used when a patient’s fat is removed via liposuction and then reinjected to plump up the face and breasts. Using fat transfer alone, the procedure is sometimes effective, but many doctors say it doesn’t always produce long-term improvements. However, doctors who process patient fat with the goal of increasing stem cell concentration (before reinjecting it) claim that the enhanced procedure can be more effective than fat injection alone.

Factors regarding this process have led the leading plastic surgery societies to issue a position statement, putting the brakes on. First, a recent study that examined 9,000 medical papers about stem cells found that only 20 of the reports were peer-reviewed studies about aesthetic procedures. Moreover, the procedures may be risky. While none of the data includes evidence that stem-cell injections lead to serious side effects, long-term studies must investigate the possibility that these breast injections may lead to tumors. Further, marketing a procedure that concentrates stem cells is illegal because the stem-cell filtering technology has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Cosmetic surgery interest in stem cells has been spurred by reports that Suzanne Somers, Madonna and Courtney Love attribute their age-defying appearances to a little help from stem cells, which are supposed to promote growth and healing.

But with all the unknowns, ASAPS is asking members to refrain from stem-cell enriched fat injections until rigorous studies show that the procedure is safe and effective. 


The mission of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) includes medical education, public education and patient advocacy. Plastic Surgery News Briefs are summaries of current stories found through various news and magazine outlets that relate to or mention plastic surgery and cosmetic procedures. The views expressed in these news articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASAPS, but are merely published as an educational service to our members and the general public. For additional information on these subjects and other plastic surgery related topics, please go to www.surgery.org

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About ASAPS
The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), is recognized as the world’s leading organization devoted entirely to aesthetic plastic surgery and cosmetic medicine of the face and body.  ASAPS is comprised of over 2,600 Plastic Surgeons; active members are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (USA) or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and have extensive training in the complete spectrum of surgical and non-surgical aesthetic procedures. International active members are certified by equivalent boards of their respective countries. All members worldwide adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and must meet stringent membership requirements.

WE ARE AESTHETICS.

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