Adult Stem Cells - The Next Wave

August 21, 2010

Stem Cells - Controversy and Advancement

Perhaps one of the greatest boons to modern medicine came with the use of stem cells. Stem cell research goes back several years, however, the problem with the use of stem cells was the source of harvesting. From the beginning use of stem cells until the past decade, stem cells were derived from embryos, and the methods for obtaining embryonic stem cells has been controversial at the best of times. The potential uses of these stem cells are vast in terms of treating and curing diseases, but the ethical questions of derivation have delayed progress in this area.

The past decade has brought a major advancement in the use of stem cells when it was discovered that stem cells can also be extracted from adult fat tissue. These stem cells have exactly the same potential as the embryonic stem cells except for the ability to differentiate into sperm or ova. Stem cells in an adult are abundant, easily available, and there are no ethical issues to deal with in harvesting them.

Using Adult Stem Cells from Fat

Fat grafting has been practiced by plastic surgeons in Europe and Asia for more than a decade. It has taken some time for the procedure to be approved for plastic surgeons in the US, but now it is available under most circumstances. Currently a legal debate is going on relative to some aspects of injection and reinjection - nevertheless, people wanting to attain a more youthful appearance using their own stem cells can now do so in the US.

Fillers May Be a Thing of the Past

Traditionally, fillers were a mainstay of plastic and reconstructive surgery. Bags filled with saline or silicone are used to plump up breast tissue and pieces of fat cut out from one area of the body are grafted into another spot. Even though these kinds of enhancements have advanced rapidly in popularity, there are some drawbacks inherent in the procedures. Using fillers requires invasive surgery and sometimes the results are less than perfect, leaving behind an unnatural look. Fat transfers don't tend to last very long and break down quickly. Using stem cells from a person's body fat could solve these issues.

The Magic of Stem Cells

Stem cells have the ability to replicate themselves and to also differentiate into other types of cells like skin, organs, or other tissue. Some stem cells are able to change into a variety of different tissues, hence the name pluripotent and multipoten. These cells are capable of becoming bone, neurons, muscle and organs. By extracting adult stem cells and cultivating them, it is possible to coax the cells into becoming a specific type of tissue, like fat or cartilage. The concept of using a liposuction type of process to inject fat into a specific area of the body, for instance the breasts, is that the stem cells take on the identity of the breast tissue and they continue to grow and divide, creating natural tissue. There is then no need for surgery.

Along with replication, stem cells nourish and sustain the cells of the tissues around them. That means that using adult fat not only provides the filler necessary for contouring or repair, but it also provides for restoration of the skin and tissue around the area that has been injected.

Silicone breast implants and botox may be a thing of the past in the near future.

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