New study revolutionizes reconstructive surgery with stem-cell fat grafts

New study revolutionizes reconstructive surgery with stem-cell fat grafts
A recent study out of Denmark found that using human stem-cell fat grafts is a safe and efficient practice that might become standard for plastic and reconstructive surgery.

A recent study out of Denmark found that using human stem-cell fat grafts is a safe and efficient practice that might become standard for plastic and reconstructive surgery. Standard practice for surgeries such as breast reconstruction involves autologous fat grafting, or lipofilling, which provides good initial results, but tends to have a high resorption rate. Now, a team of researchers from the Copenhagen University Hospital has shown that stem cells may improve results from lipofilling. 

Trial success
According to the report published in the medical journal The Lancet, the Copenhagen-based researchers tested the stem-cell fat graft procedure against 10 standard autologous routines on volunteers. The volunteers then had two purified fat cells injected into their upper arms, with only one augmented with their own stem cells. MRIs scans were taken immediately after the procedure and 121 days later to track the progress of the injected fat grafts

The researchers found that the human stem-cell grafts retained about 80 percent of their volume, a major improvement from standard control grafts, which only maintained about 16 percent of their volume.

"These promising results add significantly to the prospect of stem cell use in clinical settings and show that ASC graft enrichment could render lipofilling a reliable procedure, since the resorption rate, quality of tissue, and safety can be predicted," study author and lead doctor Stig-Frederik Trojahn Kølle wrote.

Using human stem cells for fat grafts might be the way of the future for reconstructive surgery, as many plastic surgeons in the U.S. are recognizing its proven benefits. Two surgeons out of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh backed the Denmark study, claiming that the results justify the use of stem cells in reconstructive surgery.

The full potential
While the use of stem cells in plastic surgery procedures has previously come under fire, a task force composed of board-certified physicians found in 2011 that stem-cell fat grafting was a safe method for aesthetic surgeries. However, the task force said that additional studies using adult human stem cells were still needed to hone the practice and uncover its full potential. The group of surgeons also emphasized that any clinic using stem cells should do so in accordance with the Federal Drug Association regulatory guidelines.

Now that the recent stem-cell fat grafting study has shown success, the two University of Pittsburgh plastic surgeons stated in a commentary that this lays the foundation for new and innovative modifications to reconstruction procedures, which in turn will help improve a patient's overall surgical experience.