We are only beginning to uncover the power of stem cell technology and some in the medical field predict that stem cells will be as revolutionary as medical lasers. Fat is a significant source of pluripotent stem cells which can be induced to grow into nearly any body tissue, so systems are being developed to process fat removed in liposuction procedures and harvest the stem cells there. Some in the aesthetics field are beginning to use these stem cells to enhance the results of fat transfer procedures, resulting in a more viable volume enhancing fat solution.
"There is a lot of buzz about stem cells," says Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Renato Calabria. He cautions that not all fat transfer procedures are stem cell fat transfers. "We know that there are a lot of issues that are misleading about stem cell surgery. A lot of doctors are now using the stem cell term and replacing fat grafting with stem cells. We know that fat has stem cells, and we're talking about adult stem cells which there is no controversy about it, but a few years ago we found out that fat contains stem cells, so a lot of doctors now have recycled the word 'fat grafting' and are doing and using it more talking about stem cells."
Actual results of Dr. Renato Calabria
There is a new device available in Europe which separates the fat cells from the stem cells. Dr. Calabria describes how the system works, "The stem cells, we know they help in regenerating your own skin... so with this new device, it's a very complicated automatic treatment and it will separate the stem cells from the fat, and then we actually can take the stem cells and re-inject it. By doing that, we do two things. One, we volumize the face. Two, we're regenerating their own tissue; so this is really the new frontier of plastic surgery."
The device is not currently FDA approved for use in the US, but Dr. Calabria has used it in his overseas office in Florence, where he performed one of the first Stem Cell Face lifts in the world, using this technology. "It's going to be available in the the States. I would say FDA approval hopefully within the year," says Dr Calabria, and he says he will have it available in his Beverly Hills office hopefully in the next few months.
Dr. Calabria says that in traditional fat transfer procedures there is some uncertainty regarding how long the fat will last and the possibility of irregular contours. "It is true that you have an improvement in the texture of the skin. Now with this device... you put this fat into the device, and it's not a centrifuge, but it really is a device that has enzymes that will dissolve the fat-stem cell concentrate." He says you then have enhanced fat that is superior to regular fat. "We see with this turbo-charged fat grafting that the longevity of the graft is much longer and also the texture of skin we think is much better. So we have a turbo-charge instead of a regular fat grafting which makes a big difference in my opinion."
Not much fat is needed, only about 100 grams for face work so that even the very slim can have this done. Dr. Calabria says that much more of the fat survives with the stem cell method. "About 80% of the fat grafting that is turbo charged is going to stay there for good vs. the planning for 50% in the regular fat grafting if you're lucky, so we see a lot better longevity of that."
Patients are able to see some skin rejuvenation from this stem cell face lift. "It's amazing, again, when you inject this fat and, again - adult stem cells have been used now for cardiac surgery, for many many other fields of surgery. For the face we see that actually when you inject, because what happens is the fat doesn't only have stem cells but it has what we call regenerative cells. So these regenerative cells are cells that secrete growth hormones. They secrete other hormones that help regenerate blood vessels so you get much more blood flow to the area of the skin therefore, having more blood flow you get an actual rejuvenation of the skin."
Being in Beverly Hills, Dr. Calabria works with many celebrities and he says the low downtime of this procedure makes it popular among celebs. "Celebrities can't afford to have a downtime more than a month and I have celebrities that had this done and within two weeks they were on camera.... The down time has to be minimum, but on the other hand, a lot of procedures that now have a downtime that is very low you don't see much - if any results, so we want to make sure we have the procedure that does deliver the result that you want, and keep your downtime to a minimum."
As exciting as this procedure is, Dr. Calabria says that we are still only beginning to understand what we can do with stem cells. "We still don't see the full potential of this procedure. We're just at the beginning, and obviously we have to take this very carefully. I see one or two things that happen every 20 years in plastic surgery and it's really something exciting."
Dr. Renato Calabria is a California Board Certified Plastic Surgeon. He specializes in cosmetic plastic surgery in Beverly Hills, California. Dr. Calabria has been named one of "America's Top Plastic Surgeons" by the 2008 Guide to America's Top Plastic Surgeons and was also profiled in the best selling book The Beauty Makers representing a small list of this country's best plastic surgeons. Dr. Calabria also has offices in Rancho Mirage, Rome and Milan.
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon Dr. Calabria is Board Certified by The American Board of Plastic Surgery. He is a Member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in London. He is also a Member of the Los Angeles Society of Plastic Surgeons. Dr. Calabria is part of the Voluntary Faculty of the Department of Plastic Surgery at the University of Southern California, where he teaches residents the latest technique in cosmetic surgery.