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Update and latest news on stem cell face lift, stem cell plastic surgery and fat grafting in Beverly Hills and Los Angeles.

The use of stem cell and fat grafting is definitely the latest and hottest trend in plastic surgery today. Like any trend, it will reach the highest point and then it will plateaued to a level dictated by the actual, tangible clinical results.  There is a lot of confusion about the use of stem cell in plastic surgery and many doctors have jumped on the stem cells band wagon making claims there are not based on any scientific bases.

I like to set the record straight.

 I have been interested in the application of stem cells in plastic surgery for many years and because I practice not only in Beverly Hills and Palm Spring but also in Europe (Milan and Rome) where there are less restrictions in this field, I have been fortunate to accumulate a sizable experience. I have presented my techniques involving the application of stem cells in Plastic surgery to various international meetings, and in one of them I have actually performed a live face lift using adult stem cells in front of an audience constituted by more than 200 plastic surgeons from all over the world. I’m also an author of a chapter in a book entirely dedicated at stem cell application in plastic surgery entitled “the cell-enhanced Regenerative face lift.

Regenerative Medicine is a new branch of medicine that involves the use of stem cell for new medical and surgical therapies.  I and many other plastic surgeons have embraced the field of regenerative medicine with the goal of developing new applications and procedures both in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.

First I like to define in very simple terms the different stem types, and specifically differentiate embryonic from adult stem cell.  Embryonic stem cell are more controversial, they were first isolated in 1998 and the most important characteristic is that they are pluripotent meaning they can differentiate into to the 3 germ layers that make up the human body. This meant that now we had the means to potentially generate custom-made tissue to replace defective tissue.  The problem with embryonic stem cell is the controversy related to embryonic harvesting.

Therefore the attention of the researchers have shifted to adult stem cell which does not require potential embryonic issues. Adult stem cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent which means they transform in other cell type. In fact for this discover a Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded.

Another important discovery was that researchers found an abundance of these Adult stem cell in fat and considering how easy it is to extract fat trough liposuction, these cells became easy available.  Where it gets tricky is how to extract these adult stem cells from the fat. In fact, most plastic surgeons are simply centrifuging the fat and claiming that they are injecting stem cells but what they are doing is fat grafting, which is nothing really new.  The best technique to extract adult stem cells from the fat is enzymatic digestion with collagenase and the most sophisticated system available to do that, in my opinion, is the Celution System by Cytori.  In the US the system is not FDA approved but in Europe is available.

How does it work?

The plastic surgeon extract the fat trough liposuction, the fat is inserted in the Celution device and the system generates a much smaller amount of very concentrated adult stem cells. Then the fat is supplemented with these stem cells and re-injected in different areas of the body. This process is generally considered a process of minimal manipulation.  This fat grating enriched by stem cells exhibited in a study published in Lancet a survival rate of 81 per cent 4 months after transplantation compared to 16 per cent in fat grafting alone.  There are many potential application of stem cells enriched fat grafting.   Face lift is one of them. There are two potential beneficial effects in using stem cells enriched fat grafting in face lift: one is the mechanical effect of restoring the volume of the aging face to a more youthful look and the second, which is still not proved, is to improved and rejuvenate the skin itself by bringing cells that a potential of creating new blood vessels and therefore bring more blood flow to the skin itself.  Other areas of the body, like hands, neck etc. have the potential to be rejuvenate in this fashion.  A new existing area is the breast: stem cell enriched fat can be used not only in case of breast reconstruction after cancer but also for breast enhancement and augmentation or in case of complications due to breast implants like capsular contracture, rippling hardening of the breast due to the implants etc.  A word of caution is due: definitely the future is bright for potential clinical application of stem cells in plastic surgery but more studies are needed to corroborate these potential clinical application and to demonstrate the safety of these techniques before we can make certain claims.

Regenerative plastic surgery will continue to grow as new clinical opportunities will be evaluated and I’m glad I have the opportunity to be on the fore front of this exciting new field of stem cell plastic surgery.