By Chris Woolston/Special to the Los Angeles Times

Demand is booming for the cosmetic procedure that uses a person’s own stem cells. Though surgeons claim their patients note younger skin, scientists say there’s no evidence of any such thing.

When doctors, researchers and celebrity lobbyists talk about the amazing potential of stem cell therapy, their discussions usually center on big-ticket items such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and spinal cord injuries. They don’t, as a rule, talk about wrinkles and crow’s feet.

But could stem cells be the next frontier in anti-aging medicine? Though most stem cell therapies are still in their infancy, a small number of plastic surgeons across the country are already offering so-called stem cell facelifts, cosmetic procedures that use a person’s own stem cells to supposedly bring new life to aging, sagging skin.

Stem cells are like untouched blocks of clay that can be sculpted into other types of cells. Much of the controversy surrounding the cells focuses on embryonic stem cells, ones collected from human embryos. But the stem cells used in cosmetic procedures don’t come from embryos. Instead, doctors isolate adult stem cells from a patient’s own fat tissue.

Nathan Newman, MD, a cosmetic surgeon in Beverly Hills, says that he has performed more than 200 of the procedures in the last five years. Richard Ellenbogen, MD, FACS, a plastic surgeon who also practices in Beverly Hills, says that stem cell face-lifts are a booming business. "I’ve been performing about one every other day," he says.

Unlike traditional facelifts, stem cell facelifts involve no scalpels or incisions in the face, and there’s no need for a general anesthesia, Newman says. Instead, he uses liposuction to collect fat from the patient, separates the stem cells from the fat, concentrates the cells and adds them back to the fat. He then injects the stem cell-enriched fat into strategic locations on the patient’s face.

Ellenbogen’s procedure is similar, although he says he uses a low-level laser to "activate" the stem cells before he injects them into the skin.


[Source: Los Angeles Times]


The Stem Cell Facelift: Richard Ellenbogen, MD, FACS, FICS, discusses the revolution taking place in rejuvenation techniques