Stem cell face lifts may one day help patients look younger without invasive surgery, but there are ethical issues at stake if embryonic rather than adult stem cells are used.
To answer that question, you need to know what a stem cell is. In layman’s terms, a stem cell is a cell from the human body that is pluripotent. That means the cell has the potential to multiply and become any kind of tissue – lung tissue, skin tissue, anything.
There are two kinds of stem cells: embryonic stem cells, found in umbilical cord blood, and adult stem cells, from sources such as fat and bone marrow. Both types are pluripotent, and both can potentially be used in medical therapy, including plastic and cosmetic surgery.
Here’s the theoretical application: When stem cells are injected into the patient’s skin, they potentially can turn into fat, bone, muscle, skin or other types of tissue – which can potentially regenerate older tissues into younger healthier tissues, restoring the appearance of youth.
Some scientists say that embryonic fetal tissue from elective abortions provides the best regenerative stem cells for anti-aging injections. However, pro-life organizations and others vehemently object to the use of embryonic stem cells, since the human embryo is killed during the stem cell harvesting process.
Fortunately, not all pluripotent stem cells come from unborn children. During liposuction, the unwanted fatty tissue that is sucked away contains a certain number of special cells, called pre-fat cells.
Researchers have recently discovered that these pre-fat cells are actually stem cells, and can be tricked into becoming bone, connective tissue, nerve cells, and even muscle. But these potential applications are not currently reality.
By using adult stem cells instead of stem cells taken from embryos, plastic surgeons could potentially replace lost tissue and build new tissue without presenting patients with a troubling ethical dilemma.
Although stem cell facelift techniques and all stem cell applications in plastic surgery are completely experimental in nature, it’s likely that the use of adult stem cells from liposuction in plastic and cosmetic surgery will become part of general practice in the future – the question will be will it be in our lifetime for us to benefit?