According to the National Institutes of Health, we are spending about $1 billion a year on stem cell research in the United States, and the findings to date have been extraordinary. Research in mouse models suggest that stem cells may be able to restore memory, cure epilepsy, and boost the immune system.
At the Mayo Clinic, stem cell therapy has been shown to delay or even eliminate the need for joint replacement surgery. Their research strongly indicates stem cells have the ability to repair wear and tear damage to cartilage in the hips and knees, thereby foregoing painful and debilitating surgical procedures. All signs in this space suggest that we are on the cusp of a medical revolution, and stem cells are leading the way.
In the aesthetic industry, we have been actively using stem cells from fat for years, as a natural soft-tissue filler for volume replacement or for augmentation of the breasts, lips, buttocks and more. But given growing indications of the potential value for stem cells in a broader scope — that of regenerative medicine and cell therapy — should we be recommending our patients do more?
The largest source of adult stem cells in the human body is fat. Whether it’s liposuction, tummy tuck or breast reduction, we are removing fat from our patients and have the opportunity to offer them possibilities beyond simultaneous cosmetic replacement with a growing trend: stem cell banking.
Stem cells from adipose tissue are pluripotent. They have the ability to differentiate into cartilage, bone, nerve, blood vessels, muscle, ligament and more. As a result, there are increasing numbers of men and women seeking out stem cell banking options in what is being called “bio-insurance” for their health and well being down the road, when regenerative medicine becomes a viable medical specialty. Because our stem cells age along with us, those who store them now will preserve their current youth, health and vitality for future medical applications — cosmetic or clinical.
Stem cell banking is also known as cryopreservation, and multiple labs approved by the Food and Drug Administration offer services to safely and effectively bank adipose tissue and stem cells for cosmetic treatments, augmentation procedures, reconstructive surgery, and potential use in the emerging field of regenerative medicine and cell therapy.
Today’s companies offering stem cell banking services make it easy to incorporate this option into our regular procedural process. Using the temperature-stable kits they provide, clients simply overnight the collected tissue to their laboratory. A unique ID, data collection form and real-time tracking and monitoring ensure there are no stem cell identity errors. Once at the lab, tissue is assessed for cell count, processed to ensure long-term viability, and lowered to cryogenic temperatures to be stored.
Patient stem cells are available at any time upon request by patient or physician. So the question is, should we be doing more to educate and advise our patients on the option to bank the stem cells from that unwanted fat we’re removing? This dermatologic surgeon says, absolutely yes.