In a major breakthrough researches have discovered how to turn the fat harvested from liposuction into stem cells, which are the building blocks of all of the other cells in the human body. The study was conducted at Stanford University’s School of Medicine by Dr. Michael Longaker, a plastic surgeon who used fat donated by some of his patients to conduct this study. Liposuction in New York has been used for cosmetic purposes only until the 80’s.
For some time medical researchers have hoped that experiments using stem cells could lead to breakthroughs in treating and curing diseases such as cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Previously scientists succeeded in using adult skin cells to create iPS cells, or induced pluripotent stem cells, but liposuction fat has proved easier to convert. iPS cells are mature cells which can be genetically engineered to become other types of cells using a process of injecting the cells with viruses to manipulate them and change their genetic predisposition. This is important because it helps scientists and researchers to grow specifically diseased tissue in a controlled setting and then to study how diseases progress. Since stem cells can be used to make other types of cells in the human body, the applications are potentially limitless. The discovery of using adult cells to provide stem cells has also helped to steer away from the controversy surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells for research.
It is hoped that research such as this may in the future provide the means of curing diseases that are specific to the case of each patient. Dr Longaker also added that such experiments could one day lead to the creation of new body tissue which would be impervious to rejection for transplant purposes as well. And if this study turns out to be a viable option, there should be no shortage of available materials to work from. Liposuction is the most common type of cosmetic surgery performed. And new advances in technology and wider availability have caused a reduction in liposuction prices as well, possibly causing a virtually unlimited supply of future iPS cells to work with.
Although this type of stem cell research is still experimental, medical science has great hopes for its future in the study and treatment of disease. The drive for human perfection could one day lead to the means of providing the vehicle for alleviating the human suffering caused by debilitating illness as well.