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CosmeticSurg Blog

Dr. Rodriguez discusses Plastic Surgery, Medicine, and Stem Cell Research

Can Adipose Stem Cells Heal Scars?

The short answer is yes, and we are using Fat Grafts and Adipose Stem Cells more and more for this purpose. We are just beginning to understand how this process works, and it has to do with the nature of scar tissue itself and the basic behaviors of stem cells.

HOW DOES A SCAR FORM?

Let’s first describe how a scar forms. After an injury, whether it was radiation therapy, burn, or trauma, the body responds by activating a sequence of responses. The responses can be summarized in three stages:

Stage 1- Damaged Tissue Destroyed
First the body tries to get rid of the damaged tissue. It does this by the inflammatory process, which destroys bacteria, foreign objects as well as partially damaged native tissues. If the damage is severe, a lot of native tissue can be destroyed by inflammation causing a tissue deficit.
Stage 2- New Cells for Repair
The second stage of healing is the proliferative phase where the body brings in new cells to begin the repair process. It is in this phase that there is a lot of collagen deposition.  It is this abnormal amount of collagen that makes the tissue stiff and bulky.
Stage 3- Remodeling Phase
The final stage of healing is the remodeling phase. Here the body slowly pares away the excess collagen and restores the surrounding tissues to normal function. That is why in the normal scar process the scar initially feels thick but then softens with time.

HOW DO FAT GRAFTS AND STEM CELLS HELP?

Lumpectomy and Radiation performed

Lumpectomy and Radiation performed

lumpectomy scar after fat injections

lumpectomy scar after fat injections

Plastic surgeons have been performing Fat Grafting, aka Fat Transfer, for more than 100 years. Fat Grafts contain a small population of Adipose Stem Cells, and we are currently using them to help heal scars.

To perform a Fat Transfer procedure, adipose tissue is extracted from unwanted areas of your body, processed to remove the mature and dead cells, and reinjected into the damaged scar.

The stem cells in a fat graft help to heal a scar in several ways:

1) Stem cells have anti-inflammatory properties that prevent excessive scarring
2) Stem cells help replenish normal cells in the tissue by differentiation or directing other cells in the tissue to multiply. Since the normal population of cells under the skin is fat tissue anyways, the fat graft itself provides most of the tissue that is needed.
3) Adipose Stem Cells dissolve the excess collagen in scar tissue by secreting large amounts of enzymes whose specific function is to dissolve scar tissue.

Carefully processed Fat Grafts can restore the missing tissue under the skin, dissolve the tight and bulky scar tissue, as well as helping restore better function to tissues surrounding the scar. All of these things help to repair the scar.

SUPER CHARGED FAT GRAFTS

If certain enzymes are added to adipose tissue during processing, a 10 fold  higher population of stem cells can be yielded. This is referred to as the Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF). Using the SVF with fat grafts is a way to super charge the healing process.  Many Clinical Trials and Investigators are currently using Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF) with Fat Grafting  for an even better scar result!

By Ricardo L Rodriguez
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon
Baltimore, Maryland
©Cosmeticsurg.net (permission to link to article with original source URL only)
Ricardo L Rodriguez on Google +

Other related posts:

Fat Grafting to the Breasts: Will it Affect Mammograms?

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22 Comments

  • avatar Eric wrote
    October 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    Thank you doc I pray too. I’ll keep you post for the years on my progress.

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    October 3, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Eric:
    Not that we know of.

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    October 3, 2013 at 11:21 am

    Eric:
    I make my patients wear a compression garment, not a strap, for a month.

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    October 3, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Eric:
    The Laser serves as an “injury”. The stem cells are then injected to help heal the injury.
    As to how many times and all that I cannot tell as I have no idea what your surgeons methods are.

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    October 3, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Eric:
    THANKS fot the feedback!!!!
    I pray everything goes well. Send me pictures!
    Fat is not “necessary” but I like to use it as a tissue matrix.But nobody has done enough work on this to say what is best. I’m just happy for you that you are getting the therapy! I’m so excited for you!

  • avatar Eric wrote
    October 2, 2013 at 11:38 am

    And getting adipose derived stem cells through iv drip cause cancer or other complications? I need your opinion thanks.

  • avatar Eric wrote
    October 1, 2013 at 6:29 am

    One last question, How long after a minor liposuction do you thing I should wear the compression strap on? I want your opinion. Thanks.

  • avatar Eric wrote
    October 1, 2013 at 6:05 am

    Also does the stem cell need to be injected right after the laser procedure? Also I be doing 1 treatment first to see the outcome. How many time should you recommend it to be done and how long should the gap between treatments be? I appreciate your responds.

  • avatar Eric wrote
    October 1, 2013 at 5:52 am

    Hi doc, i’m in the process of getting stem cell therapy. Had a minor liposuction two days ago. Got the stem cells through IV. After amonth i’m going to do a combination of laser and stem cells injections. Fat grafts is not necessary since i’m getting adipose stem cells injected into my stretch marks, right? Newayz will keep you posted on the results.

  • avatar Eric wrote
    September 15, 2013 at 10:11 am

    Roger! Thanks for the information given. I hope whatever way your trying to use stem cells, you succeed at it as it can change people’s life.

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    September 15, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Eric:
    For the cost, you should contact Kelly at kelly@ cosmeticsurg.net.
    In the US we cannot use stem cells per se, but we can use concentrated fat grafts which have a high proportion of stem cells.
    We can combine it with Laser for stretch marks. You should know; however, that this is not a proven therapy and results are not always what the patients expect.

  • avatar Eric wrote
    September 13, 2013 at 10:58 am

    Thanks Doc for the reply. But I’m just curious regarding the cost of this treatment and do you have to do this treatment together with a laser
    treatment. This is regarding stretch marks scars.

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    September 12, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    Eric:
    It probably is but I would not know where or what clinics offer it.
    Sorry I could not be of more help!

  • avatar Eric wrote
    September 3, 2013 at 10:27 am

    I was just wondering how much will this treatment cost? Also do you know if this treatment is offered in South East Asia?

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    January 15, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    MBob:
    I’m happy and excited for you to hear you are doing this.
    I would be delighted to see pictures of your before and after photos.
    How exciting!

  • avatar M Bob wrote
    January 14, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Hello,

    Thank you for the prompt response. I just wanted to know whether you believe that this type of treatment could be repeated until the stretch marks completely diminish, or could only serve to treat stretch marks up until a certain point – current treatments only seem to have an effect up until a certain point, but I don’t see why stem cells couldn’t be used endlessly. I am in the process with using stem cell therapy to treat stretch marks, and will hopefully keep you informed of the results.

    Thank you

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    January 13, 2013 at 8:59 pm

    Mr. Choudry:
    I have answered your post, see below

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    January 13, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    M Bob:
    I also agree with those who propose treating Stretch marks with a combination of laser and stem cells.
    The rationale is as follows:
    1) Stem cells usually will help acutely injured tissue rather than go to an area that is “stable” such as a mature healed stretch mark.
    2) The Laser serves as a controlled injury to only the stretch mark area and not the surroundinfg skin
    3) The stem cells are subsequently injected and try to repair tissue not by differentiating themselves into new skin tissue but by stimulating adjacent skin cells to grow into the area.

    As to the source of stem cells, fat makes sense to me because itt’s very easy to harvest and process.

  • avatar M Bob wrote
    January 13, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    I am interested in the potential of stem cell therapy as a response to stretch marks also. I believe that there is potential in stem cells regenerating the stretch marks and my belief has been bolstered by this submission to the world stem cell summit. Granted this study was small in scale, but it provides a clear picture of the potential stem cells and skin regeneration. http://www.worldstemcellsummit.com/files/2012-AbstractSubmissions.pdf

    The submission doesn’t provide a clear picture as to how many treatments where undergone, it seems to intimate one session of mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow as well as svf. Significant results where noted after 12 months. One of the authors of this study is a plastic surgeon in Lebanon who offers stem cell therapy for stretch marks; noting that a 30-60% difference could occur after one treatment, he also uses adipose derived stem cells as opposed to bone marrow – possibly due its abundance, ease and the fact its richer is source for stem cells.

  • avatar M Bob wrote
    January 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    I am interested in the potential of stem cell therapy as a response to stretch marks also. I believe that there is potential in stem cells regenerating the stretch marks and my belief has been bolstered by this submission to the world stem cell summit. Granted this study was small in scale, but it provides a clear picture of the potential stem cells and skin regeneration. http://www.worldstemcellsummit.com/files/2012-AbstractSubmissions.pdf

    The submission doesn’t provide a clear picture as to how many treatments where undergone, it seems to intimate one session of mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow as well as svf. Significant results where noted after 12 months. One of the authors of this study is a plastic surgeon in Lebanon who offers stem cell therapy for stretch marks; noting that a 30-60% difference could occur after one treatment, he also uses adipose derived stem cells as opposed to bone marrow – possibly due its abundance, ease and the fact its richer is source for stem cells.

    It strikes me as the most logical and sensible solution for stretch mark therapy. I do believe effectiveness is contingent on the therapy being used with other modalities. I believe the stretch marks need to be injured in order to start the repair response – this may especially be the case of older stretch marks. The FDA approved laser therapy works on this proviso, that injuring stretch marks sufficiently will enact a repair response, but the bodies natural repair response doesn’t seem to efficiently repair the stretch marks fully. This is where I believe stem cells will enact an even more potent regenerative response.

    I understand that therapies like these are open to inconsistent outcomes especially when compared with other non-surgical therapies like botox and fillers. However, stem cell therapies are contingent on the individual’s propensity to heal and so on – factors like age, lifestyle choices and so on will undoubtedly effect the response.

    What I’m curious about the ability for stem cell therapy to regenerate the stretch completely. It strikes me as strange that some therapies will only allow regeneration up until a certain point – as though there is a set point at which stretch marks can no longer regenerate. This doesn’t make sense to me. Granted it may take longer for others – possibly due to severity or the factor I’ve mentioned – but I don’t see how and why stem cells and stretch marks wouldn’t be indiscriminate in their healing response and not just heal until there is nothing no longer left to heal. Would it not be possible to use these therapies until all of your marks have completely diminished?

    Apologies for the length of the post, but I think this is important for those looking for a solution. I want to also know your thoughts on the possibilities of using blood stem cells to combat stretch marks. There is a company trialing this for wrinkles this year and they have expressed in their literature that these stem cells are richer in stem cells (500 million in one dose) and less mature than fat stem cells

    Kind Regards

  • avatar Ricardo L Rodriguez wrote
    January 5, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    Abdul:
    There is a misperception as to what is meant to “heal scar tissue”. You seem to think it means that the scar tissue disappears and is replaced by intact newly reconstituted tissue. This is not the case. Stem cells can break up scar tissue collagen fibers with collagenases, and stimulate adjacent normal cells to divide and reproduce, but that may not result in the disappearance of stretch marks completely.
    An approach that is being proposed is to destroy the stretch mark tissue by Laser, then have the stem cells come in and reconstitute the normal appearance by getting adjacent normal cells to reproduce.
    There are no long term studies, or ongoing studies that I can refer you to but it is an approach that in theory makes sense.
    We can try this approach, but you would have to be aware that it is not proven.
    If you are interested, contact Kelly at kelly@cosmeticsurg.net

  • avatar Abdul Halim wrote
    January 3, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    I just want to be clarified on this, can it heal stretch marks because they are essentially scar tissue right? Correct me if I’m wrong on this; I have been doing my research thouroughly and have thought about treating my stretch marks which are basically everywhere due to weight loss, and from what I know the stem cells have the capability of turning into skin cells and any other type of cell although Adult stem cells are limited to what they can turn into. My question is will it be able to heal stretch marks?