Liposuction leftovers could help save lives

Stem cells could come from fat, not human embryos or skin cells

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The fat removed during liposuction can be used to form stem cells, US researchers have said.

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Human fat includes some cells that can start the process of reprogramming to stem cells straight away. This is quite a big deal, seeing as skins cells – one of the most commonly used cell types to make stem cells – have to grow for three or four weeks in a laboratory, some times with the addition of mouse-derived cells, before the reprogramming process can start.

“We’ve identified a great natural resource,” Dr Michael Longaker, a surgery professor at Stanford’s School of Medicine and co-author of the research. He also has said the lipo leftovers are “liquid gold.”

Being able to reprogram adult cells to work like embryonic stem cells is one way patient-specific cell lines could be created to regenerate tissue, and could help researchers study certain diseases in the laboratory.

In talking about the findings, Dr Joseph Wu, a cardiologist and the study’s senior author, made a passing comment to the fact that with 30%-40% of American adults being obese, there were a lot of cells they could start with. However, perhaps even those of us who aren’t the usual lipo candidates would be happy to donate a few kilos to do our bit…

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Would you consider being a fat donor, in the name of science?!

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