Stem cells derived from adipose (fat) cells could be used in plastic surgery and tissue reconstruction, two studies have suggested.
A team of researchers from several institutions in Italy isolated and characterized adult fat cell-derived stem cells from patients undergoing lipoaspiration (surgical removal of fat deposits) in order to investigate the ability of the fat cells to maintain their stem cell characteristics in in-vitro cultures to the point where once transplanted they could aid in tissue regeneration.
"The use of lipoaspirate as filling material is a powerful technique for tissue repair in plastic surgery," said Rita Falcioni of the Regina Elena Cancer Institute (Rome).
"Increasingly, it is used in oncology to repair tissue damaged by surgical treatments, such as mastectomy. The use of purified adipose-derived stem cells might improve this surgical procedure by shortening the time to achieve esthetic results and thereby improving patient quality of life," she said.
The researchers described adipose tissues as "highly specialized connective tissues" that help provide the body with an energy source, yet little research has investigated the transplant potential of adipose-derived stem cells.
In another study, Camillo Ricordi of the University of Miami and colleagues, said that successful engraftment and long term survival of transplanted adipose tissue has increased interest in structural fat grafting, yet there is a high percentage of tissue resorption over time.
Adipose cells can also fall victim to trauma during harvesting. In contrast, progenitor cells have minimal metabolic requirements and tend to survive longer.
"Adipose-derived stem cells might very well represent the only tissue surviving transplantation. There is much more to be learned in tissue remodeling following adipose tissue transplantation and it is time to carefully re-examine the potential implications of autologous fat grafting as being more than the filler concept for which it was originally utilized," concluded Ricordi.
The findings were published in the journal Cell Transplantation.