Storing your Fat’s Stem Cells
Let us get the facts straight.
- At the time of writing this blog, there are no approved uses for Mesenchymal Stem Cell (MSC). MOH in Singapore only allows the use of stem cells in approved clinical trials. And for the treatment of medical conditions only. Their use in aesthetics is particularly frowned upon because it is expected that greedy and unethical doctors (or worse beauticians) would exploit the situation.
- The technologies to harvest and store stem cells over long periods have existed for decades.
- To avoid coercion or conflict of interest, the liposuction doctor who harvests the fat, the facility that stores the MSC, and the doctor or institution that initiates the clinical trials for the stem cell therapies should be separate unrelated people.
What are Stem Cells?
There are several types and sources of stems cells. Embryonic stem cells are derived from aborted embryos, which as you can imagine are outlawed in many countries due to ethical concerns. Adult stem cells can be derived from placenta, umbilical cord, adipose, bone marrow and even teeth.
Stem cells from the bone marrow are well-established therapies for various blood diseases. Some initial success has also been reported for cord blood.
Stem cells extracted from your own fat deposits are a newcomer. A mini-liposuction procedure is needed to get the fat out of the body to yield the stem cells. Adipose tissue derived stem cells are called Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC).
The technology to cryo-preserve stems cell has been around for decades. Just make sure the stem cell bank is properly accredited.
The cryo-preserved MSC can in the future be used in regenerative therapy. This refers to the use of regenerated MSC to replace damaged cells in organ failures. One such area of research is in pancreatic beta-cells for the treatment of diabetes. The future for many other diseases may well be in MSC and regenerative therapy.
However in order that you have the best MSC when you most need it in the future, you can do 2 things.
- Ensure that the mini-liposuction is done in a reputable and experienced centre.
- Choose the best stem cell bank that will store your stem cells for decades to come.
If you happen to be thinking about liposuction anyway, it might be a good idea to have some of the excess fat (which will be discarded) processed for MSC storage. Perhaps one day the MSC can grow a much-needed organ for you.
What is Liposuction?
Liposuction is a treatment that is useful to sculpt areas of the body or the face that are disproportionate. Pockets of fat are extracted using a thin cannula to reveal a better body contour. The saddlebags, the love handles or a belly that is not in sync with the rest of the body shape are common areas for liposuction.
Liposuctions are minor surgical procedures. They are performed in a day-surgery OT with an anesthetist to administer sedation. The surgery takes about 1-2 hours in general to complete. The recovery time depends on the extent of the liposuction, but generally most patients will be able to go out of the house and run errands to very next day.
In some cases, the extracted fat can be transplanted to augment other areas, which have shrunk in the process of aging. This is referred to commonly as Fat Transfer. The face and the breasts are examples of such areas for Fat Transfer.
And of course during liposuction, a portion of the fat cells can be sent to the laboratory for extraction of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), which are then stored for future use.
Storage of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC)
The extracted MSC should be stored in a reputable cell banking facility, and preferably in a country like Singapore, which has very stringent laws regarding cell banking and storage standards. Cell banking facilities in Singapore have more than 20-year experience for successfully storing cord blood and stem cells of other sources.
Check that MSC may be withdrawn at the patient’s request for therapeutic purposes.
For ethical reasons, and to avoid and conflict of interest, the therapeutic applications should be administered by a doctor or institution other that the liposuction doctor or the stem cell banking facility.