A study in the June issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reports that gravity may not be the primary culprit for facial aging. The study reveals that  the human face is made up of distinct fat compartments that individually change with age and the degree to which our faces age is dependent, in part, on how these compartments change over time.

According to Joel Pessa, MD, a plastic surgeon at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and lead author of the study, the face is a 3D puzzle with fat partitioned into discrete units around the forehead, eye, cheek, and mouth. A youthful face is characterized by a smooth transition between these compartments, but as we get older, abrupt contour changes occur between these regions because of volume loss, volume gains, and repositioning of the compartments. These changes lead to sagging or hollowed skin and wrinkles.

Pessa says that with this breakthrough, plastic surgeons will be able to more accurately pinpoint trouble areas and use injectable fillers to add volume to individual sections of the face, creating a more effective way to turn back the clock.

This discovery may also benefit cancer and trauma patients who require reconstructive plastic surgery, Pessa says. The researchers found that the individual fat compartments have boundaries between them that act like fences, which allow the face to maintain its blood supply should it become injured.

[www.medicalnewstoday.com, June 15, 2007]