Imagine the body you’ve always wanted. Great, wrinkle-free skin. A proportional, substantial bust. A slim waist and hips. Now imagine that in a relatively painless plastic surgery procedure, you could take the fat from your hips, thighs or stomach, and use it to fill in those pesky wrinkles, lift your bust and improve your skin. Sound too good to be true? Maybe not for long.
For anyone who’s longed to look younger, but felt reluctant to go under the knife, there may be a new, more natural plastic surgery alternative: stem cell enriched fat-grafting. Although stem cell anti-ageing and cosmetic procedures are growing in popularity, there are still regulatory questions (not all procedures are FDA approved, or even legal in the U.S.) and certain drawbacks. The appeal of stem cell plastic surgery is clear – there’s no ‘fake’ aspect to a patient’s end result. Still, it’s good to have the facts if you’re considering stem cell surgery.
Unlike traditional plastic surgeries, which usually involve pulling or tightening of the skin, or implants constructed of unnatural materials, stem cell procedures are conducted using only a patient’s own tissue or cells. Fat is removed from those unwanted bulges on a patient, purified, and replaced by injection into the desired area. The purification step involves separating and concentrating regenerative and stem cells from the surrounding fat, and then injecting the cells into the desired area to volumize. Such concentrated fat can be used as filler in the breasts, face, hands, buttocks, or even for vaginal rejuvenation. While it may seem strange to take from your thighs and give to your face, patients report excellent results, including softer, healthier skin at the transplant site.
How It Works
Stem cell procedures are an advanced form of fat grafting that use someone’s own regenerative adipose tissue to improve appearance in a number of ways. Whether you want to redistribute your curves or reverse signs of ageing, stem cell surgery may have something for you. Although stem cell breast augmentation is still under review in the U.S., it is being used very successfully in Japan and Europe. The stem cell facelift technique is selectively practiced in the U.S., and is still awaiting FDA approval. Issues of federal regulation may be enough to scare away the faint of heart, but Dr. Mollie Carter of Cytori predicts that stem cell technology will soon be widely acknowledged as the future of cosmetic surgery: “Patients are more in-tuned to using their own bodies rather than using synthetics…I think that we hope to have approval [for the technology] within the next 2-3 years.”
According to Melissa Kelz, also of Cytori, “Over 46,000 autologous fat injection procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2008. These procedures include adding volume to facial areas such as cheeks, tear troughs, chin and jowls, as well as reshaping the breasts and enhancing the buttocks during aesthetic body contouring.” So if you’re looking to undergo a stem cell procedure, U.S. facilities are available, but it will probably be a few more years before all operations are totally sanctioned.
There are more than a few upsides to new stem cell techniques. For one thing, results are better than natural-looking, they’re actually natural. As Dr. Carter points out, “Once [a fat graft] ‘takes,’ or develops blood supply, it’s there forever. It’s permanent as opposed to synthetic. It’s your own non-manipulated tissue.” You may have shied away from plastic surgery in the past because of horror stories like burst busts or immovable facial expressions, but cutting edge fat-grafting technology promises to provide a more organic, flexible result. Traditional fillers like silicone or Botox are of course problematic because as the body or face changes, static filler does not necessarily change in the same way, potentially resulting in deformities or health complications. But with new stem cell technology, the injected areas retain a natural changeability, so that as a person ages, their stem cell ‘implants’ age normatively as well.
Another benefit of stem cell procedures is that rather than temporarily altering the appearance of aging, such as a traditional ‘pulling’ facelift might, the injection of cells actually stimulates and rejuvenates the skin. According to Dr. David Shafer, “Stem cell therapy offers many advantages, including the potential for stem cells to differential into different types of tissue. The rejuvenative capacity of these cells could have far-reaching benefits for both cosmetic and reconstructive patients. While further research is needed, initial studies are promising.”
Stem-cell concentrated fat injections in facelift procedures have been found to shrink pores and decrease pigmentation. Because of the natural renewing properties of the cells, they grow new blood vessels and also expedite the healing process by releasing anti-inflammatory substances. There is no risk of stem cells being rejected such as might occur with foreign implants. Stem cells actually help tighten the skin over the area of the injection, providing for an even younger, fuller appearance in the face or breasts. You wouldn’t think that your gut could be used to make your face look more beautiful than ever, but with new fat-grafting technology, this seems to be just the case.
Because the fat used in stem cell procedures is taken from you the patient, you’ll feel more of a whole body transformation rather than a localized improvement. Your single stem cell procedure has the dual effect of slimming heavy areas and plumping saggy areas. This is a big plus if you’re looking to remake your look entirely. A traditional facelift can’t do much for your thighs, but with a stem cell facelift, your thighs sure can do a lot for your face…and for themselves.
The regenerative properties of stem cells are perhaps the most obvious and promising advantage of this technology. Part of the inherent usefulness of stem cells is in their healing potential, hence recovery from a stem cell procedure is naturally easier and less painful. In fact, stem cells can potentially be employed to speed healing in injuries unrelated to cosmetic surgery. Ideally, a person could turn his or her unwanted love handles into not only a fresher, younger face, but also a quicker recuperation from a broken ankle.
If you might normally be hesitant to undergo plastic surgery, you should certainly feel more comfortable injecting your body with a natural healing agent rather than a synthetic agent such as silicone. In addition, post-op scarring is usually significantly less visible and the procedure itself is minimally invasive. Stem cell procedures have the potential to open the market to a whole new demographic; people who long for self-improvement through a natural, essentially ‘real’ means.
The most obvious con of stem cell procedures is that they are not yet fully ready for the U.S. consumer. Hopefully this problem, and others, will be short-lived and if, in the meantime, you’re considering this alternative to plastic surgery, there are some other drawbacks to consider.
Like any surgical procedure, stem cell cosmetic operations run the risk of failure if performed by the wrong people. Because this technology is still in relatively developmental stages, there are still problems, and in the wrong hands, these issues can be greatly exacerbated. Fat grafting without proper stem cell operation, for instance, can be unreliable and create irregular contours in the injected area. Also, stem cell breast augmentation, when performed improperly, can result in the bursting of injected fat globules, similar to how a traditional implant might rupture and create problems in the breasts.
Stem cell surgery also has its limitations. For instance, breasts can only be augmented by a maximum of two cup sizes during one treatment. If you’re going for that Pamela Anderson, Dolly Parton look, this probably isn’t going to cut it. Also, the entire procedure depends on the patient having enough body fat to be removed and relocated. Very thin patients may not have an adequate store for their desired level of facial volumizing or breast enlargement. In a way, the use of stem cells relies on a patient having more than one aesthetic issue. If you’re not worried about your weight, you might not want to undergo liposuction just to fatten up your face.
Further, because stem cell facelifts or other operations require liposuction, there is added room for error. Patients reported that most of their post-op pain was in the donor areas, and not the treated areas. Liposuction risks are an added concern for many patients who want a safe, easy cosmetic surgery alternative. Although methods are being developed to lessen the risks associated with liposuction, this is still a drawback.
Most stem cell cosmetic procedures are yet to be FDA approved, so a patient should exercise caution when considering such an operation. As medical applications are still in a research phase, a patient should be aware that many results are not backed by clinical data.
Looking to the Future
Plastic is a thing of the past. With sustainable resources becoming more and more sought after, natural ‘plastic’ surgery seems like the logical next step in cosmetic anti-ageing procedures. While any patient should be careful with stem cell facelifts, breast augmentations, or other aesthetic operations, stem cell technology is seemingly on the rise, and people hoping to improve their appearance can look forward to a more natural, less painful surgery.
Read more about stem cell plastic surgery on Makemeheal.com