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Doctors harvesting stem cells from fat during liposuction

Although the FDA has not approved fat stem cell therapies, researchers are studying whether they can be used for regenerative medicine.

HOUSTON — For years, researchers have believed stem cell therapies may have the potential to treat a host of diseases and injuries one day.

That hope for the future is why some people are already harvesting stem cells from their fat during liposuction procedures.

“Physical activity and health is my way of life. It’s my passion and my purpose. I want to help other people live their strongest, healthiest, most fit, powerful lives,” said Jessica Archer, a yoga and fitness instructor. “I would love to be that 78-year-old woman lifting heavy things in the gym.”

She hopes saving the fat from her liposuction procedure will help her get there.

“Rather than discarding the liposuction aspirate, we can harvest it, save it, send it to Forever Labs for years and years of usage in the future,” said Dr. Franklin Rose, Utopia Plastic Surgery.

Rose invited us into the operating room to show removed fat is a great source of stem cells.

Researchers all over the world are studying whether stem cells from fat, called adipose stem cells, can be used for regenerative medicine to treat everything from arthritis to Alzheimer’s.

Dr. Mikail Kolonin with the McGovern Medical School at UTHealth studies fat tissue.

“Very few clinical trials have demonstrated that those cells can do something useful. It’s not to say they can’t, but few clinical trials have been efficacy trials,” Dr. Kolonin said.

He said there are no FDA-approved therapies using adipose stem cells now.

Plus, labs typically charge an annual fee to bank them.

However, Dr. Kolonin does recommend harvesting stem cells if people have the financial means.

Even if they are not used for treatment, they can be used for research.

He said stem cells deteriorate with age, so the younger you can remove and bank them the better.

“I think it is worth patients to consider harvesting their cells, because there is a lot of potential in using them,” Dr. Kolonin said.

For Archer, she sees her stem cells as an insurance policy, one she hopes she’ll never have to use.

“I do see it as an insurance policy,” she said. “Think about it: 20 years from now our world will look completely different. Look how different it looks 20 years ago compared to now.”


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