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Could your fat save your life: Emphatically YES! But how?

Well, we first have to look at the cosmetic medicine field. Yes, in this case the search for beauty may lead to health and longevity!

There is a rapidly expanding field of medicine called Regenerative Medicine. I have alluded to such regenerative techniques in previous blogs about using one’s own blood serum to improve skin texture and build collagen – the Selphyl platelet rich plasma or media tagged “Vampire Facelift”. Facial fat grafting of which I am quite passionate; is another form of regenerative medicine. Facial fat grafting patients not only look more youthful and vibrant but their skin looks healthier. Some postulate that the skin is more youthful because of stem cells found within our own fat.

We have all heard of ‘stem cells’. But what are stem cells and what do they do? Stem cells are immature cells found within our body that can mature into adult cells of different kinds of tissues such as muscle, cartilage, heart muscle, nerves and skin. Mistakenly many believe that our bone marrow has the largest store of stem cells. Remarkably, it is actually our own fat tissue that houses the largest density of stem cells. Our fat cells called ‘adipocytes’ have a large amount of associated stem cells present. They are called “adipocyte derived stem cells” or “ASC”.

The beauty of ASCs is that they can be easily collected (“harvested”) by a simple in office, liposuction technique under local anesthesia. There are numerous techniques developed to separate out these stem cells. And now commercially there are ways to store one’s stem cells indefinitely.

Why store one’s own stem cells? As mentioned earlier, regerative medicine is exploding with potential as many scientists and physicians explore how one’s own stem cells can be used as the “fountain of youth”. Many human diseases are related to inflammation, destruction, or degradation of our own body tissues. Examples of these diseases would be Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, and heart failure.

Science hopes that some day our cultured stem cells may be grown into healing replacement tissue, to help slow the aging process or possibly even offer a cure. This is an exciting part of medicine with great potential. It is still too early to celebrate. I have learned patience and a bit of skepticism over a long career as a general, vascular and transplant surgeon of 18 years, and now a cosmetic surgeon for over the last 10 years. There is no panacea, no matter what the headlines read! But there is great potential in utilizing our own stem cells, to cure ourselves in the future!

We are about to launch a program that will allow anyone to have their fat, containing stem cells, harvested under local anesthesia with no downtime. The fat will then be sent off to a FDA approved cryopreservation company that can store stem cells indefinitely. Whether this will be the longterm solution remains to be delineated over time. Yet, this is a very exciting first step towards our achieving a longer, more vibrant quality of life!

In health and beauty,
Dr. Tom