Stem Cells From Recycled Fat: The Future May Be Now

NEW YORK, NY (April 29, 2002) — If you've been considering lipoplasty (liposuction) for cosmetic reasons, new clinical data indicate there may be long-term benefits you never imagined. Stem cell researchers have made headlines predicting future uses for recycled fat, including regeneration of body parts damaged by disease or injury; but a new clinical study suggests that some of this new technology may be available now, with lipoplasty patients "banking" their own stem cells and collagen-rich material. Researchers presenting the current findings of their on-going research at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) in Las Vegas, April 27 - May 3, say the potential impact on cosmetic surgery and patient care may be profound.

Lipoplasty is the most commonly performed aesthetic surgical procedure. According to ASAPS' most recent statistics, more than 385,000 lipoplasty procedures were performed in 2001. Routinely, however, the material removed during the procedure is discarded. Researchers say this lipoaspirate is rich in adult stem cells that can be useful to the patient.

Los Angeles plastic surgeon and ASAPS spokesperson Peter Fodor, MD, says the significance of his study is tremendous. "Here we have adult stem cells harvested with no ethical, moral, or political downside. The yield is huge, and the stem cells can be stored for future regeneration."

According to the study's co-author, Marc Hedrick, MD, "This may be the beginning of an endless supply of adult stem cells that can be used for muscle, bone, cartilage and nerve regeneration, or to remake fat from the ground up." In other words, we may be at the flashpoint where tissue recycling and regeneration become reality.

One of the important findings of the study is that the stem cells can be differentiated into fat, bone, cartilage, muscle, and nerve. This demonstrates that stem cells from fat can regenerate many different types of human tissues.

In the study, patients undergoing lipoplasty banked both their stem cells and their collagen for future use. Using a patient's own collagen eliminates many of the problems associated with using collagen from other sources. No adverse reactions have been reported with the autologous collagen-rich injections in patients studied up to six months so far.

The potential medical benefits of this stem cell research are enormous, and go far beyond the cosmetic applications, according to Drs. Fodor and Hedrick. For example, a 40-year-old woman undergoing lipoplasty will be able to bank or freeze her stem cells in suspended animation. She will age, but her stem cells won't. Then later, when she is older, she can use her young stem cells to fix a broken bone or cure a life-threatening disease. "The clinical use of stem cells to treat the problems of disease and aging is not a question of if, but when," says Dr. Hedrick, "and our research suggests the when may be now." In addition, if the ongoing research shows that fat tissue can reliably be engineered from a patient's own stem cells without calcification, this might mean an advance in the area of breast augmentation. However, ASAPS President Malcolm Paul, MD, warns against hurrying the future: "It would be a major break-through if recycled fat could be used to enlarge the breasts," he says, "but we need scientific proof that such a procedure would not be harmful or cause difficulty in reading mammograms."

"As with everything that seems exciting and new, further research and documentation of results is key," says Dr. Fodor. "This study is a small one, and we won't be sure of the implications until we have followed the results over time, have been able to duplicate them in many patients, and have followed all procedures leading to FDA approval."

Note: The initial pilot project was funded by a research grant from the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation (ASERF).

Dr. Hedrick has a financial interest in technology related to stem cells.

Dr. Fodor's presentation is scheduled for Wednesday, May 1, 11:00 am PDT.

PETER FODOR, MD, and MARC HEDRICK, MD, are available for interviews.


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 nonsurgical 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.


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