Stem Cell Face Lifts:
The Future of Plastic Surgery
Dr. Reza Nabavian Studies the Regenerative Effects of Using Stem Cells in Fat Transfers.
Fat transfers are already common procedures in plastic surgery, where fat is extracted from one place in a patient’s body and then injected into another to create natural looking, youthful fullness and to rejuvenate the general appearance of the area.
Yet researchers like Dr. Reza Nabavian, Clinical Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, are finding that some improvements may be due to the natural presence of stem cells in fat transfers.
“Stem cell research has pointed to the use of stem cells to repair and even to become bone, cartilage, muscle, blood vessels, nerves and skin,” says Dr. Nabavian. “We are conducting studies to understand how stem cells behave in grafted fat tissue.”
Dr. Nabavian is taking part in research at USC where his team isolates stem cells from fat and studies their behavior in living tissue. He is researching a way to deliver a patient’s extracted fat with their own stem cells. These stem cells are harvested from (often unwanted) fat that is removed a patient’s body. These harvested stem cells are then placed back into a portion of that extracted fat. When this stem cell enriched fat is then injected back into the body, the results appear to have remarkable regenerative effects.
“Stem cells may cause a transient release of growth factors that increase the activity of native cells such as fibroblasts, which then increases the production of important skin components.
Specifically, stem cells may be themselves activated in their new niche to become new skin components such as fat, dermis, blood vessels, etc.”
About Fat Transfers:
Fat transfer procedures help rejuvenate and contour the face and prevent or target signs of aging in younger patients. Where older patients are concerned, fat transfers may complement a facelift, as the addition of fat contributes to more natural results.
Fat transfers help contour the body where fat from unwanted areas like the hips or back can be transferred to more desirable areas like the buttocks. Fat transfers are also being used in breast reconstruction and small breast augmentation.
Grafted fat exhibits many of qualities of an ideal filler. It is completely biocompatible and in most patients, available in sufficient quantities. Fat grafts naturally integrate into the host tissues, are removable if necessary, and, by all indications, are potentially permanent.
Because of these characteristics, in the last decade fat grafting has become increasingly popular in aesthetic and reconstructive surgery as a primary or adjunct procedure.
Dr. Nabavian currently advises his patients to avoid fat/stem cells injection to the breasts for the purpose of augmentation.
There are two main concerns that have not been adequately addressed by the proponents of this procedure:
1) It is possible that calcifications may form in the areas of injected fat/stem cells. These may be interpreted as possible breast cancer and may lead to multiple unnecessary biopsies and anxiety. There is also the possibility that growth factors may help promote cancer cells.
2) Most women seeking breast augmentation choose to have volumes of 200-300 cc’s per side. It would be very unlikely to get this augmentation volume efficiently using fat.
Therefore, it is not logical to use a procedure that not only has a questionable safety profile, but also fails to provide adequate augmentation.
Fat/stem cells injection is a great tool for facial rejuvenation and body contouring. It may also be used in breast reconstruction, where the breast tissue is removed and there is no cancer-related concern. But I would advise against using it for primary breast augmentation.