Stem Cell Fat Grafting: Minimally-Invasive Skin Regeneration

Fat grafting is a plastic surgery procedure used to improve the appearance of certain areas of the body. Stem cell fat grafting is an exciting frontier in cosmetic procedures, and may have uses beyond plastic surgery. Learn about the procedures, as well as their benefits and risks.

Key takeaways:
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    Fat grafting is a procedure used to improve cosmetic appearances of certain areas of the body.
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    Stem cells can be used in conjunction with fat cells to improve healing.
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    Stem cells can potentially reduce scarring during surgery.
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    Further research is needed to determine the risks and benefits of stem cell fat grafting.

Stem cells – what you need to know:

Every part of your body is made of cells. Each cell is specific to the organ to which it belongs. For the most part, each cell produces cells just like it — for example, epidermal cells make other epidermal cells.

You also have a group of cells called stem cells. These cells are a little different to the rest of the cells in your body. All stem cells have the ability to change into specialized cells. There are two types of stem cells:

  • Embryonic. These stem cells are also known as pluripotent and they are specific to embryos. Embryos eventually develop into a baby in the uterus. These embryonic stem cells produce specialized cells that develop into organs.
  • Somatic. They are also known as adult stem cells and can be found in different organs and tissues throughout the body. They cannot become just any cell but can make any of the cells of the specific organ where they are found. This helps with repair and regeneration of the body.

What is fat grafting?

Fat grafting, also known as fat transfer, is a procedure performed by plastic surgeons. It is used to improve the cosmetic appearance of certain areas of the body, as well as heal wounds.

Using liposuction, the surgeon harvests fat from one part of your body. The fat is then processed to make sure they are using just fat and not other cells or tissues. The surgeon injects the purified fat into another part of the body.

Fat grafting can be used on its own or in conjunction with other plastic surgery procedures. This procedure provides a more natural contouring to different parts of the body, and decreases risks by using a person’s own fat cells.

What is stem cell fat grafting?

During fat grafting, stem cells are also harvested along with the fat cells. Stem cells from fat are known as adipose tissue-derived stem cells (ADSCs). During stem cell fat grafting, more steps are added to collect ADSCs.

After the ADSCs are separated out, they are grown in a lab to make more of them. Therefore, stem cell fat grafting requires more than one procedure, while regular fat grafting is done during a single procedure.

The second procedure will not be as invasive as the first, since it will simply involve injecting the ADSCs where they are needed. Often less ADSCs are used than fat, since the hope is that they will grow and fill in the area.

Benefits of stem cell fat grafting

Stem cell grafting is a new procedure. Ongoing research continues to be promising. These benefits will improve not only plastic surgery, but many other areas of medical treatment — from burn treatments to scar reduction to regeneration of bones.

Further research is needed to see if stem cells are worth the time, energy, and money it takes to produce them. More trials also need to be done to study the safety of stem cell use.

Those undergoing fat grafting still benefit from stem cells. Since stem cells are not removed from the fat during the purification process, an unknown amount of stem cells will also be transferred with the fat cells. These stem cells help rejuvenate and repair the area they are placed in.

Risks of stem cell fat grafting

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has distinguished fat grafting and ADSC injection as two separate procedures. Each comes with their own regulations and guidelines, and each has their own risks.

The risks during each procedure are similar, including:

  • Bleeding;
  • Fat embolism (fat that gets into the veins);
  • Blood clots;
  • Asymmetrical results;
  • Death of the transplanted cells;
  • Infection;
  • Bruising.

The risks of stem cell fat grafting are not fully known, and more research is required. For those with cancer, there is a risk that the transferred stem cells will turn cancerous or promote tumor growth.

Death of the stem cells can cause the formation of cysts or areas of calcification. Stem cells can also migrate to other areas of the body and grow where they are not wanted.

Stem cell grafting is a new medical therapy, and more research is needed. Stem cells are used in fat grafting but cannot used alone unless as part of a research study. Make sure you clarify with your plastic surgeon if they are using regular fat grafting or if it will be done with an enhancement of ADSCs.


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