Adipose mesenchymal stromal cells, or adipose stem cells, were discovered in 2001 and have since been heavily researched for their potential use in plastic surgery. The abundance of research and the positive clinical findings have resulted in these cells being increasingly used in plastic surgery and have helped plastic surgery move to the forefront of regenerative medicine. A recent review has summarized research into adipose mesenchymal stromal cells and their applications in plastic surgery.
One of the things that make adipose mesenchymal stromal cells so valuable for plastic surgery is that these cells can overcome challenges observed with other stem cells. Much of the reason for the ability of adipose stem cells to provide better outcomes than other stem cell types are their regenerative properties. The stromal vascular fraction that includes all adipose tissue cells except the adipocytes is becoming used more and more for grafting and replacing fat grafting because of its great potential for tissue regeneration. In addition to grafting, adipose stem cells are showing promise in wound healing and recovery from tissue damage and scarring.
Unlike some other stem cells types that are more challenging to harvest, adipose stem cells can be relatively easily retrieved by performing liposuction, which requires only local anesthesia and can be completed without causing scarring. Now that the potential of adipose stem cells is being realized, the authors of the recent review suggest that new protocols should be developed and solidified to help define how exactly these cells can reliably be used in regenerative medicine generally – and in plastic surgery specifically. As more research is conducted and clinical applications are observed through case studies, these protocols will evolve, and our ability to use adipose stem cells to treat patients will improve and expand.