Stem cells derived from fat do show promise in plastic surgery and regenerative medicine, but more research is needed to firmly establish the safety and efficacy of this therapy in humans.

This is the main finding of a review article on adipose stem cells that appears in June issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

So far, most studies have been performed in Europe and Korea. Due to stringent FDA regulations, only three adipose stem cell studies have been performed in the US. Less than 300 patients worldwide have been treated. Most clinical trials to date have been performed in plastic surgery.

While results of some studies are promising, there is no standard protocol for the preparation or clinical applications of these cells. "Clinicians and patients alike have high expectations that adipose stem cells may well be the answer to curing many recalcitrant diseases or to reconstruct anatomical defects," study authors conclude. However, even as the number of studies using increases, there is continued concern about their "true clinical potential."

Moreover, “there are questions related to isolation and purification of adipose stem cells, their effect on tumor growth, and the enforcement of FDA regulations."

Plastic surgeon-researchers have used these stem cells for breast augmentation and lipodystrophy. The cells have also been used to promote healing of difficult wounds and as a method of soft tissue engineering or tissue regeneration.

Going forward, "further basic science experimental studies with standardized protocols and larger randomized controlled trials need to be performed to ensure safety and efficacy of adipose stem cells in accordance with FDA guidelines."

[Source: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery]