What’s the Skinny on Adipose Stem Cells Derived From Fat?

In this blog, I’ll share some of the results we’ve had using stem cell therapies in different ways to show you how you can utilize them in your office or clinic. Let’s start with stem cell treatments for cosmetic regenerative tissue enhancement. The procedure starts with taking fat from one location on the patient’s body and relocating it to the area you’re trying to enhance and combining that fat with a population of adipose (fat-derived) stem cells for best results.

This theory, in part, was first published back in 2006 by Kotaro Yoshimura, M.D., Associate Professor, Department of PlasticSurgery at the University of Tokyo. Dr. Yoshimura demonstrated that stem cells harvested from fat are actually responsible for creating new adipocytes.

Does this mean fat is our friend? When it comes to therapeutic tissue treatments, it sure is!

We used to believe that we had a set number of adipocytes and that these either grew or shrank depending on the amount of fat that our bodies were gaining or holding, but we now know better. Everyone has a population of stem cells that exist within their fat tissue that is responsible for replacing or replenishing mature adipocytes, and they’ll grow with weight gain. By attaching to fat tissue, those stem cells will actually help support expansion or weight gain. Therefore, you can take stem cells from one sample of fat—imagine all those stem cells clinging to your fat stores—and put them into another sample of fat to create a cell-enriched population that can be utilized to help create angiogenesis (the development of new blood vessels) and help the graft survive better.

Doc and patientTake, for instance, breast augmentation using this process. By taking fat from one location, relocating it, and adding stem cells with the fat to the breast tissue, you can reduce reabsorption of the fat tissue. In addition to being able to perform fat transfer for breast augmentation, you can also utilize the stem cells and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) when you need to rejuvenate the skin as well. One example would be a patient who had received an injection of stem cells plus platelet rich plasma without a fat graft: in this case, the cell will be very angiogenic in nature, creating new blood vessels and generating a youthful glow. The cells can also help with collagen production so the patient gets smoother skin and help with scarring or the appearance of unevenness on the skin.

Adipose stem cells can also be utilized for regenerative results in orthopedics. A typical technique is to isolate the platelet rich plasma from the peripheral blood and combine it with stem cells from the fat tissue. Our preference is to utilize the adipose stem cells, again, because of the massive volume of stem cells fat tissue delivers. We can obtain about five hundred times more mesenchymal type stem cells—stem cells that that can differentiate into a variety of cell types—from adipose tissue than we can obtain from bone marrow. For this reason, in most cases we utilize the cells from the adipose tissue rather than the bone marrow.

This protocol comes courtesy of Joseph Purita, M.D., a member of the Global Stem Cells Group Advisory Board and a pioneer in the use of stem cells and PRP therapy for orthopedic surgery. Dr. Purita’s protocol is to inject the adipose cells plus the PRP interarticularly to the affected joint.

This therapy has also been used successfully in animals. For instance, in the case of a horse with a chronic, non-healing tear in the ligament considered so chronic that they were going to put it down, an injection of the platelet rich plasma plus the adipose stem cells directly into the lesion resulted in a complete resolution of the non-healing ligament within six months post-treatment.

platelet rich plasmaAgain, courtesy of Dr. Purita, is another example of a patient with avascular necrosis who had been told that she needed a total knee replacement. She was getting her knee drained once per week, had severe swelling and pain, and was not able to perform, pretty much, any activities due to her joint pain. After injection of the adipose cells plus the PRP, the patient was essentially pain free, she was able to play tennis weekly, and there was complete resolution of the avascular necrosis, according to MRIs six months post-treatment.

Another example is a patient who was hit by a bus and thrown into a house, resulting in a non-union bone fracture that never healed properly. In this case, the patient was treated at the Hospital Angeles in collaboration with the Regenerative Medicine Institute. The patient had not been able to bear weight on the leg for more than two years. After an injection of stem cells plus a bone matrix, at the three-month follow-up there was full continuity down the length of the bone, and for the first time in more than two years, the patient was able to bear weight.

Treatments using adipose (fat)-derived stem cells, in combination with PRP and other regenerative medicine therapies, are proving to provide the body with the ability to heal in cases where nothing else worked. Initial findings tell us that PRP assisted stem cells can figure out what cells they need to replicate—whether cartilage cells, bone cells, or collagen cells for ligaments and tendons—to help the body heal from within.

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