The Surgeon Minute

Utilizing Regenerative Medicine in Plastic Surgery

Utilizing Regenerative Medicine in Plastic Surgery

It sounds almost too good to be true – taking unwanted fat from one part of the body and ‘transferring’ it to another part where it’s used to add volume and or a more youthful appearance. Some of that fat – your own fat – has some stem cells that may work to provide regenerative benefits. Likewise, the procedure may be combined with Platelet-Rich Plasma, or PRP, using the body’s own cells to jump start the healing process.

Such therapies that were science fiction even a decade ago are coming into their own as real procedures. Beneath the umbrella of regenerative medicine, PRP and stem cells carried by fat are offering a glimpse into a future where rejuvenation at the cellular level is not only understood, but applied. Board certified plastic surgeon Dr. Kristi Hustak of Houston explains her use of PRP and what regenerative medicine can do for plastic surgery patients in particular.

What Is Regenerative Medicine?

A new era is unfolding in medicine that is opening the door to treatments using the body’s own natural healing powers. Stem cells have often been the lightning rod of regenerative medicine, plagued in the news by it’s connection to fetal stem cells and abortion. As science has progressed quietly beneath the clouds of politics, researchers have discovered that another two sources of stem cells may actually be far greater in opportunity than fetal stem cells: mesenchymal stem cells and adipose-derived stem cells. The latter are the stem cells found in fat, a substance plastic surgeons are wielding more and more of, rather than discarding.

Regenerative Medicine - Fat Cells.

Authorities say fat grafting can be used to effectively add volume and fullness to different areas in the body. Patients are thrilled to discover that not only can fat be removed via liposuction, but it can be cleansed and readded where volume is missing. Body contouring has thus exploded in recent years, but there is another, more mysterious component that may one day eclipse that excitement: the stem cells contained within.

In addition to these fat-based stem cells, another bodily component is being harvested and utilized in a different way. Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) is drawn blood (like the fat, this blood comes only from the patient undergoing the procedure) that is spun down to create a dense solution that aims to stimulate healing and the regenerative properties associated with an increased blood supply.

Regenerative medicine - PRP.

“The human body is amazing,” shares Dr. Hustak. “There is so much potential that we are just learning to harness using our own cells to improve other parts of our body and this where regenerative medicine is taking shape.”

“Liquid Gold” and More

There are many uses for fat grafting when coupled with PRP, according to Dr. Hustak. “Plastic surgeons joke that fat is liquid gold. We love fat because we are able to take the fat somewhere we don’t want it and put it somewhere for a different purpose, like skin rejuvenation.” She adds that none of the good stuff should go to waste.

“The idea being we can take it out of your body, repurposing a specific component of your blood or your fat and taking that component and putting it somewhere else in a concentrated fashion,” shares Hustak. “What we are seeing is really neat stuff. Taking the PRP, or amniotic fluid or placental fluid, we know there are stem cells in all of these or signaling factors and that helps to restore tissue.”

Top Treatments Using Fat Grafting and PRP

Fat grafting or PRP uses the patients own cells that are harvested, purified and then re-injected to add volume and fullness where it is needed in almost any area of the body. Dr. Hustak says new uses are coming to light every day. “For example, a lot of women who have thinning or men that have thinning hair – we are taking out that component of their blood – PRP – and re-injecting it in a concentrated fashion to bring in blood flow to make the hair growth more robust. It’s the same thing with facial rejuvenation. We drive that PRP in the skin with micro needling, or even at the same time as a facelift or laser. We are getting a much more aggressive and robust response or outcome. I am even using it for genital rejuvenation to rev up the blood flow in that area and to improve sexual satisfaction.”

Using PRP for facial rejuvenation.

Hustak says these treatments use the body’s ability to recover in a positive and powerful way. “This is harnessing the body’s own ability to heal itself. Regenerative medicine can really be applied everywhere on the body,” she details. “I can find indications to use your blood PRP or fat on every ounce of your body – whether it’s from hair or face or even hands.”

Remember to Seek Out the Experts

While regenerative medicine shows unbelievable promise in all areas of medicine, it’s important to remember the technology is in it’s infancy. Due to this, many practitioner’s may over-hype the abilities of PRP and fat grafting when it comes to their regenerative potential. “Stem Cell Facelift” and other marketing verbiage draw people in, but the technology really isn’t there yet. What is there is known by the experts who work with these materials often and are helping to establish an evidence-based scientific approach to their power. Be sure to seek out a board certified plastic surgeon who routinely utilizes the procedures in order to maximize their potential results.

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