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Ask The Surgeon, Cleveland Magazine, 10/1/2013

Start Date: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Last Modified: Monday, March 26, 2018
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Question: My sister lives in Desert Springs California and was telling me that her cosmetic surgeon was offering stem cell therapy in his office. I thought that research in stem cells was no longer allowed. Is this a scam?

Answer: Stem cells are capable of developing into any type of cell or tissue in the body thus offering the possibility for use in treating a wide range of serious injuries and diseases. It was initially believed that embryonic tissue was the richest source of stem cells. It's not that stem cell research isn't allowed but due to the demand for embryonic stem cells (which were highly controversial) and the dispute over their use, governmental regulation delayed progress in this area for a number of years.

In more recent years, after further examination, we now know that human adipose (fat) is an extremely rich source for stem cells. This is important for a couple of reasons; the most obvious is that it removes the moral issues associated with using embryonic stem cells. A person's fat can provide a substantial amount of stem cells, and utilizing one's own cells practically eliminates concerns of the body rejecting them.

Since the discovery of stem cells' remarkable potential there has been great excitement in the possibility of treating such diseases as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and diabetes as well as therapies for degenerative back, hip and knee conditions. Another, less known area of focus for stem cell use has been in cosmetic procedures, specifically in their ability to replace collagen lost in the aging process. Your sister's cosmetic surgeon may or may not be doing research in this field.

There is growing evidence of the usefulness of stem cell therapy. Although, much of it is anecdotal or testimonial, there are a rapidly growing number of researchers who are collaborating in legitimate studies of the benefits of stem cell use in medicine. There has also been a proliferation of stem cell treatment centers, predominantly on the west coast, that have been conducting valid treatments on patients with remarkable outcomes. An important caveat: not all of these clinics are appropriately harvesting the fat cells, then separating the stem cells and condensing them for therapeutic use. This is a fraudulent practice, therefore, investigation into any clinic offering such treatments is strongly recommended.

The Bottom Line is that Stem Cell Therapy has immense potential to slow or reverse a lot of human conditions. Currently, the science is being outpaced by the consumer demand but I feel that many significant breakthroughs in this technology will be occurring in the very near future.