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  • By Lois W. Stern, Editor-at-Large, Makemeheal.com


    The world of plastic surgery seems poised for innovation once again! How about a facelift without surgery? Sounds too good to be true? Stay tuned.


    By lifting the ban on federal funding for promising stem cell research, on March 9, 2009 President Obama brought this highly charged topic to the forefront once again. Not surprisingly, anti-abortion rights activists condemned Obama’s decision. Although I strongly applaud his stand, I certainly would never support the use of our finite supply of embryonic stem cells for beauty enhancement treatments – nor have I heard of any reputable surgeon who advocates such research and application for anything short of curing human disease and restoring body parts. But anti-aging specialists and plastic surgeons now have discovered other sources of stem cells – unburdened by moral and ethical decisions. Enter adult stem cells.


    Understanding Stem Cells

    A stem cell is a cell from which other types of cells develop. Stem cells have the ability to make more of themselves and to differentiate as they do so, in order to grow a wide variety of tissues. While embryonic stem cells are the most well-known type, not all multi-potent cells come from embryos. An abundant source of stem cells also can be harvested from our own fat. Within this past decade, researchers have begun to recognize that these pre-fat cells were actually stem cells that could be coaxed into becoming not just more fat, but cartilage, bone, and even neurons and heart muscle. Because of their diverse capablilities, these stem cells are known as multipotent.


    Researchers are discovering that the lipoaspirate from liposuction, which we make in our bodies, can be converted into cells having the ability to differentiaten and replicate. By capitalizing on stem cell biology, plastic surgeons are beginning to implement methods for using those cells to reconstruct lost tissue and to build new tissue in less invasive ways than ever before.


    Fat Grafting in Development

    Plastic surgeons, recognizing that fat is an ideal material for soft tissue augmentation with the most natural-appearing results, have been reinjecting fat into faces for decades. The biggest problem with this procedure has been the resorption or breakdown of the reinjected fat, with resulting impermanence to the improvement.


    “The grafted fat must gain its own blood supply in its new location in order to persist long-term, and this generally is not possible when large amounts are

    injected at once and when specialized instrumentation and techniques are not employed,” explains board certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Law.            


    Structural fat grafting, also known as lipostructure or microfat grafting, has been a step forward in establishing permanence of the reinjected fat. With this process, small amounts of fat (less than 0.1 cc at a time) are carefully microinjected in a series of discrete layers to gradually build new soft tissue structure. As there is space between each microinjection, new blood vessels are able to grow into the grafted fat, allowing it to persist.


    This procedure requires specialized training and specialized surgical instruments, as well as patience on the part of both surgeon and patient, but when performed properly, permanent improvement in facial plastic contours is possible.  

    Stem Cell Plastic Surgery


    Researchers are experimenting with new ways to process fat so that these fragile stem cells can create a blood supply for the transplanted cells to help them survive. One experimental method has involved separating out multipotent adult stem cells and growing them in a petri dish, while coaxing them to differentiate into specific tissue types such as fat or cartilage.  Those differentiated cells are then injected into the patient, where they continue to grow and divide, creating a small amount of natural tissue.

                                             Stem Cells, Facelift  






    Photos courtesy of Dr. Vincent Makhlouf – Des Plaines


    A second method uses mechanized means to accomplish similar goals. Cytori is a San Diego-based company that makes equipment to process fat stem cells immediately after the doctor liposuctions off some of the patient’s fat. Half that fat gets set aside, while the other half is processed to extract a condensed mixture rich in stem cells. That mixture is then injected back into the reserved fat, producing a fat graft supercharged with stem cells, ready to be reinjected into the patient. The result is an immediate fat graft supercharged with stem cells. An additional benefit is that because the patient is the donor, there is no risk of tissue rejection.


    Stem Cells, Plastic Surgery


    Photos Courtesy of Skin Essentials@bod:evolve 


    The Facelift of the Future

    Today many diverse procedures are being utilized to rejuvenate the face. While some involve surgery such as eyelifts and facelifts, other non-surgical options have emerged in the past ten years as a means to temporarily rejuvenate the face. Enter muscle relaxers as Botox (and more recently Reloxin), and fillers such as Juvederm, Radiesse and Restylane. These options can provide patients with a younger, more rested appearance, but because they are only temporary measures, injections need to be periodically repeated.


    Plastic Surgery, Face Lift, Stem Cells 

    Photos courtesy of Dr. Vincent Makhlouf – Des Plaines


    If clinical trials continue to show promise, the “Stem Cell Facelift” may just be the next huge step forward in facial rejuvenation. This Stem Cell Facelift would involve removing fat from a patient’s body – typically from the thigh or abdomen – processing it in some way and then injecting it back into that same person’s face – all in a single procedure. Anti-aging specialist and plastic surgeon, Dr. Vincent Giampapa, Assistant Clinical Professor at UMDNJ Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey and Director of The Plastic Surgery Center Internationale and the Giampapa Institute for Age Management, has pioneered this procedure and has been performing it for the last four years. He claims that the patients he has treated have exhibited not only marked improvement in both the underlying soft tissue contours of the face but also in skin quality and tone and that the results it yields are extremely natural. Priced at $5,000, it is considerably less costly than a surgical facelift that typically costs triple that amount.

    Face Lift, Plastic Surgery, Stem Cells                               

    Photos courtesy of Dr. Vincent Makhlouf – Des Plaines


    Dr. Renato Calabria, a plastic surgeon with offices in both Italy and Ca., is slowly integrated this technique, which he calls the “Stem Cell Enhanced Facelift”, into his own practice. By introducing these reengineered stem cells into specific layers of facial tissue during the surgical facelift, he claims to see dramatic improvement in not just facial contour, but in skin quality and tone as well. He believes that the growoth factors contained in the implanted  cells stimulate skin renewal properties.


    Will this change the way facelifts are done in the future or better yet, provide us with that dream come true -  a cost effective, knife-free facial rejuvenation procedure performed in an office setting requiring only local anesthesia, with shorter downtime and natural, long lasting results.


    The hope for the future is that one day we will be able to say yes to all of the above and that these reengineered stem cells will be used not only to fill out wrinkles on an aging face, but also to replace lost breast tissue or augment the breast without the insertion of an implant.

    Lois Stern, Plastic Surgery

    Lois W. Stern, Editor-At-Large at Makemeheal.com, is a beauty expert and author of Sex, Lies and Cosmetic Surgery and Tick Tock Stop the Clock.

    Lois has also just come out with an incredible DVD for plastic surgeons, which is a practical communication tool for use between surgeon and patient.  Check out Lois’s website at: www.sexliesandcosmeticsurgery.comLois and Patty Kovacs are the co-founders of Coast to Coast – Eye on Beauty Newsletter.

    Coast To Coast, Patty Kovacs, Lois W. Stern

    as well as a DVD for Professional office use – a practical communication tool for use between surgeon and patient. See her website at: www.sexliesandcosmeticsurgery.com/



    16 Comments so far

    1. Tom Blakeslee on May 24, 2009 6:04 am

      “our finite supply of embryonic stem cells” is very misleading. Stem cell lines once established don’t need any continuing supply as they just multiply indefinatly. This misunderstanding is behind the big political battles.

    2. Denver tummy tucks on September 18, 2009 10:52 am

      great tips. I enjoyed reading this

    3. Pat Dines on September 29, 2009 9:26 am

      Stem Cell Face Lifts are not a vision of the future, they’re here. Although we have been doing fat grafting face lifts for here, we have just received all the necessary equipment and reagents to extract stem cells from fat (adipose tissue). Our first stem cell face lift is scheduled for next Wednesday. The two biggest advantages of this face lift not mentioned in this article are the predictability of the results (we are planning the surgeries with a 3D camera that uses Cartesian geometry to calculate the necessary volumes of fat injections we will use) and the fact that stem cell face lift patients will not have to hide out for 2-4 weeks following surgery like those who just get fat injected. Finally, the most amazing results in my opinion are the changes to the skin quality post surgery. We already know how great the skin looks after fat injections, so we are very excited to see what will happen with the stem cells added. Check out the results without stem cells at restorationlift.com. Within 2 months we will be posting before and afters with stem cells.

    4. Jonathan Paul on October 15, 2009 5:24 am

      I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

      Thank you
      Keep blogging

    5. Lois Balon on November 1, 2009 2:33 pm

      It’s about time the US got smart. Stem cell is here and now, lets support research because it’s only going to get better. I know I know someone who used there own stem cells for heart and he is 100%

    6. saba on November 3, 2009 6:55 am

      Hi Pat dines.

      Can you tell me the institute that you are with that will post the results for the stemcell face graft and also does the stemcell procedure tightn the skin itself? and how long to see the results. saba

    7. anita on November 16, 2009 2:05 pm

      i would love stem cell research for my stretch marks i would glady offer myself up as a volunteer!:(

    8. Cathy on December 27, 2009 7:11 am

      Can Stem Cell Therepy work on repairing damaged skin on the feet? Say from eczema or psorisis?

    9. Cosmetic Surgery Abroad on December 30, 2009 3:10 am

      It’s time once again for end-of-year promises and New Year’s resolutions – which means self improvement and image repair. Consumers seeking cosmetic or plastic surgery to help restore breasts through breast augmentation or breast lifts, or those hoping to lose weight through liposuction, body sculpting or obesity and weight loss surgery such as bariatric surgical procedures, lap bands, gastric bypass or other techniques will be looking for cheap options to meet their goals.

    10. Andrew Butcher on January 13, 2010 9:01 am

      DR. Khan Has performed face lifts, breast augmentations, buttock enhancements and body contouring, with excellent results using stem cells and stem cell enhanced fat.
      He has also had excellent results with scar repair(which is going to be written up in medical journals), and has seen encouraging results with stretch mark repair.
      It is all very exciting for everyone.
      All the best for the new year.

    11. Ann McLean on February 2, 2010 11:49 pm

      This is an idea who’s time has come.
      Does anyone know If the stem-cell face-lift available in Mexico?

    12. Ann McLean on February 4, 2010 9:22 am


    13. Ann McLean on February 5, 2010 5:33 pm

      Please remove my message and address.

    14. christian drehsen md on February 18, 2010 7:41 pm

      true stemcell enhanced face-lifts or stem-cell enhanced fat migrogratings are performed on a regular basis at the Clinique of plastic surgery in Clearwater Florida since november 09,results are so far exciting in terms of skin rejuvenation ,fat graft survival and overall natural andfresher appearance
      C Drehsen MD

    15. Melissa Morgan on March 11, 2010 6:21 pm

      Is anyone doing this in Orlando Florida? What is the down time and cost- $5,000?

    16. Mexico hospitals on July 5, 2011 10:58 pm

      Dr. Camacho-Melo has been in the business for over 17 years already, practicing in Baja California and serving as well patients in his country of Colombia. He holds a significant record in medicine and several memberships in important associations in his field, including but not limited to the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

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