Much has been made over the past several years regarding the healing potential of stem cells. This has not been without controversy, and that controversy has been related to the use of embryonic stem cells. The harvest of these cells destroys an embryo and thus has not been used in clinical applications. Fortunately, another source of stem cells exists in the adult. Stem cells can be taken from the bone marrow as well as another recently discovered source – fat! Liposuction is an incredibly useful means to acquire adult-derived stem cells. You get the simultaneous benefit of improving your body contour as we develop the tissues needed to process.
Stem cells have been purported to enhance the survival of fat grafts, improve the quality of damaged skin, enhance skin and soft tissues’ thickness, and, most notably, be employed to create organs, heart valves, and blood vessels in the laboratory. Potentially serving as a cellular “fountain of youth.”
Stem cells retain the ability to differentiate (grow and develop) into nearly every cell type under the proper cellular growth factors. As we learn more about what makes a cell grow or change, science will likely continue to expand stem cells’ role in clinical medicine.
Plastic surgery has already adopted the technology and is actively researching its effects. However, the marketing of these “techniques” have progressed far beyond the current scientific understanding. There are “stem cell facelifts” and “supercharged fat grafts,” but none of this has been proven to be as effective as the advertisements might claim. Thus, a consumer must approach these situations with a healthy degree of skepticism regarding the claims. This is not to discount the techniques as a whole, but we don’t understand them to the degree required to make the statements commonly advertised.
What does the future hold? We will likely be able to inject stem cells in your IV, which will be targeted to the area of concern and then help your body rebuild itself with a new heart muscle or liver, kidney, spinal cord, or even breast.
Stay tuned for the future, but beware of “snake oil” salesmen selling it before it’s ripe!
*The content in this blog is developed to spread the awareness towards plastic surgery. Our blog is not intended to serve as a replacement for an actual in-office consultation with Dr. Marin. As such, the information within this blog reflects the unique cases of our individual patients.