Those who want to remove fat often turn to liposuction or tummy tuck procedures in order to do so. For years, skilled plastic surgeons have been using these surgeries to decrease body fat and leave their patients with a tighter, slimmer waistline.
Now, advances in stem cell research have led to a use for the fat cells removed during liposuction or a tummy tuck. Researchers have been able to use adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) in order to grow bodily features that could be useful in treating a number of different diseases.
In the most recent example, researchers at the University of Oklahoma used ASCs to create new blood vessels, according to Fox News. The vessels could be useful in a number of different scenarios, such as a patient who needs a grafted vessel following a coronary bypass.
Stem cells are essentially blank slates that can turn into any other type of cell when introduced to certain stimuli. The use of embryonic stem cells has been somewhat controversial in the past. However, the cells taken from liposuction fat are adult stem cells. Using what used to be considered "waste" from a liposuction and essentially recycling it can offer numerous advantages to scientists.
"The more typical way for getting stem cells from adults for transplantation is to extract cells from the bone marrow," Matthias Nollert, whose lab grew the blood vessels, told the news source. "However, you can’t extract bone marrow very easily. It’s a very invasive procedure and patients don’t tolerate it well, so we were looking for alternate source of adult stem cells for older, sicker patients."
The news could ultimately be a major breakthrough for patients suffering from heart problems. In the past, candidates for bypass surgery would need to take a vessel from their own body, typically somewhere in the leg. However, some patients' vessels are inadequate for use in other parts of the body.
By using a stem-cell derived blood vessel, the patient could actually undergo a combination liposuction and angioplasty (widening of the blood vessels). In this case, the patient's own stem cells could be used to grow the blood vessel graft, which would eliminate the chance of rejection by the body.
"We could do angioplasty on them as well as liposuction, take their stem cells, spend four to six weeks growing a blood vessel from them, all the while angioplasty keeping them alive," Nollert told the news source. "Weeks later, they would come back to the hospital and have a functional blood vessel they could implant."