What is all the buzz in the plastic surgery community about these strange things that you may have heard about called “stem cells”? Exciting research within just the past 3- 4 years has intensified as we’ve learned that the real “fountain of youth” may have actually been discovered in the power of these cells. The innumerable rejuvenating effects these special cells seem to have on the skin are only just now beginning to be understood. Incredible– the quality, the look,the texture and feel of the skin appear to have been improved through changes that seem to be operating at the most basic physiological levels, deep within and under the skin. The skin looks and feels younger because…technically…it truly is?
Stem cells are a natural cellular component found in many tissues including the skin and body fat. They are essentially inactive “bystanders’ until stimulated into action by special body signals to do so– usually trauma or injury begins that process. Stem cells clearly play an important role in the maintaining of tissue health and assisting in repairs. Stem cells in the body fat are actually alive and present in small amounts in the fat after it has been removed and concentrated for fat injection/sculpting procedures. Fat injection/sculpting techniques have been used successfully by plastic surgeons for the past several years in a variety of ways. Your very own body fat represents one of nature’s best agents– a natural “filler” that can be used to restore fullness to the face and cheeks, for creating more youthful and sensual lips, to eliminate and smooth out facial lines, for softening hollows and folds and to fill and lift sagginess of the facial skin. But plastic surgeons and their patients began to notice that there was clearly something else going on with their results after fat injection/sculpting. Plastic surgeons saw that the skin itself, the skin under which the fat had been injected to sculpt, fill or plump, had dramatically changed. The skin looked as though it had undergone some sort of spontaneous transformation– it definitely looked healthier, younger, and felt smoother!
Follow-up microscopic analyses studies in the lab ultimately demonstrated that there were indeed true architectural changes detectable in the skin following the fat injection procedures that were difficult to explain. As would typically be seen in youthful skin, cross-sectional thickness was increased, the deeper layers were more even, and the superficial layers were smoother. Overall, there was a noticeably greater degree of organization and regular structure to the skin. The skin had undergone changes that amounted to a literal “rebirth”. The result of these changes was that the facial skin had improved smoothness, luster, plumpness and texture. Skin which had been qualitatively lacking –thinning, aged, wrinkled, and dry– had somehow gone back in time to the days of its youth! The shaping, filling and wrinkle erasing effects of fat injection treatments were well-known, but this “rejuvenation effect” on the skin was something completely unexpected.
We have since come to understand that the special effects on the skin itself are directly due to the biological activities of the transplanted stem cells. These living cells naturally accompany the fat which is gently harvested through special liposuction techniques for use in fat injection/sculpting procedures. During the procedure, the stem cells numbers are proportionately increased and they become even more powerfully concentrated when centrifugation and similar techniques are used to further concentrate the fat prior to injection. Stem cell numbers can be amplified and increased even further still before they are injected under the skin by additional methods including the use of activating compounds, growth factors and stimulatory agents in the laboratory. When the cells are placed under the skin by injection, they “rev-up” and become biologically activated, secreting small amounts of bio-active compounds throughout the skin, stimulating wave after wave of these amazing anti-aging and rejuvenating effects! Actual, real new skin growth takes place– the skin looks better and feels smoother because it has been truly physiologically renewed! Look for more scientific information to come out in the immediate future about these fantastic “stem cells”. For the first time in history, plastic surgeons now have the ability to use them to turn back the clock– for real!
Dr. Lyle Back is originally from New York City, receiving his medical and surgical training at Rutgers Medical School, Cooper Hospital – University Medical Center, and Ohio State. He is Board Certified in General Surgery (ABS) and Plastic Surgery (ABPS). He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (ACS), the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery (AACS), and a longstanding member of the premier American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). He served as a Professor of Plastic Surgery at Temple University and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children and performed reconstructive surgery with “Operation Smile” in Vietnam. He specializes in the full range of the most modern and state of the art cosmetic surgery procedures for the body and non-surgical cosmetic enhancement techniques available today.