Liposuction Leftovers Are a Stem Cell Bonanza

By Eliza Strickland | September 8, 2009 10:26 am

obesityThe movie Fight Club may have been on the right track when it suggested that the fat left over from liposuction procedures was too valuable to throw away–although the idea of making soap from forsaken flab is too gross to catch on. Instead, researchers have found a way to turn fat cells into stem cells, and say the process is much more efficient than the standard technique for stem cell production, which uses human skin cells.

Reprogramming human skin cells remains woefully inefficient; typically, it takes about a month for 1 in 10,000 fibroblast skin cells to give rise to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. Such iPS cells can, like embryonic stem cells, develop into any cell type. So researchers have been on the lookout for tissue types that can more speedily and easily be turned pluripotent [Nature News].

In the study, which will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers describe how Stanford plastic surgeon Dr. Michael Longaker’s liposuction patients donated one to three liters of their fat, which he called “liquid gold” [San Jose Mercury News]. The researchers separated out the globular fat and prepared the fat tissue cells for reprogramming–a process that took only two days, instead of the three to four weeks required for skin cells. The reprogramming procedure was also faster, taking only two weeks. Finally, it was 20 times more efficient than the skin cell conversion.

In a similar study, published in the Journal of Cell Science, researchers found that reprogramming melanocytes, the pigment-producing skin cells that give rise to moles, was also faster and more efficient than reprogramming regular skin cells. While much more work needs to be done to prove that both kinds of altered cells are safe, the researchers say that making stem cells out of waste products could be a boon for medical research. Says Longaker: “There’s a lot of fat in America, unfortunately, and it’s a renewable source of cells” [Nature News].

Related Content:
80beats: Scientists Transform Diabetics’ Skin Cells Into Insulin-Producing Cells
80beats: A Safer Way to Transform Skin Cells Into Stem Cells Brings Medical Trials Closer
80beats: Scientists Reprogram Skin Cells to Create Cloned Mice

Image: flickr / didbygraham

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • Joseph Smidt

    The more ways we can create stem cells the better. I’m convinced, despite how great embryonic stem cells are (they are), that working with a wide variety of stem cells will make us more productive than working with embryonic ones alone.

  • Connie

    So now they will pay me to get lipo?!?!?!?! I’m in!!!!!!!

  • Devonne Ellis

    So where do I sign up for this weight loss?

  • K mariah greer

    Is there a way to sign up for free liposuction to help support the cause. Im all about helping others :)

  • Ed

    I got a few pounds of liquid gold. if anyone is interested let me know… i am a med student on top of all that

  • Greg

    hey, I have lots of fat to donate

  • Terri Bumgardner

    Let me be the first to offer my fat, all of it!!! Please call!!!

  • Dj

    sounds interesting to me
    I would definitely take part in this medical experiment

  • http://yahoo luzn59

    Dr. Oz
    I am a 49 year old female. I have moderate to severe hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. I am over weight. I have started the acai and the colon cleanse. I have to take so much medicine that I take vitamins to help protect my liver, kidneys, and any other parts of me that all the medication might damage. Is there any way to reverse this problem? My cardiologist doesn’t want to do surgery because he said that it is such a complex and complicated surgery that he just wants to keep me on medication. I watch you on Oprah every time you are on and I try to do my best to follow your advice. I desperately want to change to help myself to heal, or at least try to get off some of the meds that I am taking. I would greatly appreciate any help you could give me in this matter. I can no longer work and what little check I do get just barely gets us by. Please tell me some good news.

  • http://donthaveone Nancy Berry

    Exciting possibilities, if the liposuction is safe sign me up!

  • D. Johnson

    I would love to participate in your study, not only to help myself, but to help others. I have always had excess fat in my inner and outer thighs which keep me from enjoying the beach and pool – too embarrassed to wear a bathing suit. I also have additional tummy fat from being post menopausal. Please let me hear from you. Thanks.

  • http://N/A Allie Nichols

    Dr. OZ .. I would like first, to “THANK OPRAH”..for bringing such an inspiring doctor, into our lives. GOD BLESS! I am a 69 yr. old woman, with severe Diabete’s, and many other health issue’s. I have been most fortunate, to be going through the Gastric Bypass soon. I am Praying this helps me, get back on the good health track? Now, I have always weighed 245 lbs, since I was 20 yrs. old? I am 5″3″. What happens, to all this skin, after the weight loss? This is my biggest fear? Can it be removed safely, Dr. OZ? I am most excited, to get this done, and put it all behind me, to begin a better health regiment. Thank you for your time, Dr. OZ. Best of Luck with your new show. It will be a Big Blessing to all of us, who just think your “TOPS” in medicine. Bless you.

  • http://none Susan LeBeau

    Dr. Oz,

    I am greatly interested in this subjest as I have recently been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. I am a 48 yr old woman who is single and living alone. For 22 years I have had a successful career in the aerospace industry, and I also had an active and fulfilling personal life. In March of ’09 I had a physical breakdown which subsequently was diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome. I have been on disability since March and am having to significantly change my life-style in order to cope with the debilitating effects of the illness. Some days I can barely lift my head off the pillow. The most recent research in this field indicates that stem cell treatments are the way to go to get people with this illness on thier feet as fast as possible. Unfortunately, I cannot get this treatment in the US and I do not have an additional $20,000 lying around to go to Panama, or any other country for a treatment that is not covered by insurance. Now researchers think there is also a genetic link to the illness which is interesting. This would be a great topic for you to consider covering on your new show. I would greatly like to hear your opinion on this topic.

    Thanks for all your sound medical advice,

    Susan K. LeBeau

  • http://none Susan LeBeau

    Dr. Oz,

    I will look forward to watching your new show. Best of luck now and always!

    Susan K. LeBeau

  • Chicago liposuction

    I never knew that. I always thought that the fat removed during liposuction was discarded. So, liposuction can be called a ‘fat recycling process’! And every time someone undergoes liposuction, he is donating stem cells.

  • Lori

    Dr. Jeffrey Caruth of Plano Aesthetics in Texas performs this surgery. The stems cells can be placed in the face and hands for a youthful look or they can be placed in the breasts for a more natural breast augmentation.

  • Cuffie Dr Dre Beats

    h a bus, on the way, someone the phone ri


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