By: Olivia Young
Created on 09th November 2009
Forever young human cells: myth or reality?
The idea of an elixir of youth is as old as recorded history. Alchemists from as far back as ancient Egypt have tried to make a powder or a liquid that could cure all diseases and prolong life. These days you don't have to go much further than the shelves of a pharmacy, health food or department store to buy pills, creams, ointments, tonics, infusions all promising the same thing as the alchemists of old: health and longevity.
Yet it is has now been discovered that it is possible to look within to find the key to youth.
The forever young human cells
A forever young tissue in our body is not a myth. The adult stem cells (from a living person and not from an embryo) are cells that serve as a sort of repair function in the body.
Stem cells are unspecialized cells that can renew themselves indefinitely and, under the right conditions, can develop into more mature cells with specialized functions. Stem cells are the 'master cells' that could, in theory, be used to produce virtually any type of replacement tissue for a damaged body. Since they can be harvested from the patient themselves, potential ethical issues and the body rejecting them are averted.
Researchers at UCLA School of Medicine in the USA succeeded in extracting stem cells from lipoaspirate (the fat removed after liposuction). Stem cells derived from fat are not only easy to obtain but are found in high quantities. Adult stem cells, ready for use as needed by the body, are found in various tissues but fat is a particularly rich source. Each 400g of tissue harvested during liposuction yields an average of 200 million nucleated cells, which can double in number every 50 hours.
Liposuction is intended as a cosmetic plastic surgery procedure to rid people of their unwanted fat, but researchers have found that there may be a benefit of keeping the removed fat for stem cell research. With an average of almost 400,000 Americans undergoing liposuction per year to improve their looks, the idea of using some of that fat to cure a disease or defect has lots of popular appeal.
The hope for the stem cells extracted from liposuction fat is to be able to grow new cartilage and restore muscles loss. But it now seems that there is a further aesthetic benefit to using these forever young stem cells.
Since 1997, a French plastic surgeon, Dr Roger Amar, has been using stem cells to repair and rejuvenate his patients for plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic indications. He called his technique FAMI, which stands for Fat Autograft Muscle Injection. FAMI can benefit those suffering from scarring resulting from cleft lip surgery, acne scarring and facial and muscular atrophy but can also be used to reverse the signs of ageing.
Unlike the once-popular fat filler injections promoted in the1980s, FAMI offers lasting results based on taking adult stem cells from the lower body fat storage areas (mostly the legs) and injecting them into the facial muscle and periosteum, using specialized cannulas adapted to the skull curvatures to create a fuller, more natural and youthful expression.
Engineered adipose tissue for stem cells is the ideal solution for patients with wrinkles or contour irregularities. "It is the future," said Dr Marc Hedrick, at the annual meeting of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
Rejuvenating the facial tissues by injecting autologous cells is nowadays the best prevention technique of ageing. Since giving back a youthful shape is the main goal of all the invasive surgery of the face, FAMI is the best technique for grafting forever young cells into the best vascularized areas of the face.