Technology has made great strides in the aesthetic industry and none as exciting and intriguing as the use of regenerative and stem cells found in fat that is removed during liposuction. While it is still unclear whether stem cells can do all the amazing things it touts, only time can tell if the science will pan out, some patients are taking advantage of the potential of their own fat and having their fat frozen and stored in a facility such as BioLife Cell Bank.
Opening its doors in the US in June 2010, BioLife Cell Bank offers patients and providers to store the adipose tissue (fat) that is left over from liposuction for future fat transfer procedures. As more procedures turn to using patients' own fat for volume, such as the Natural Breast Augmentation, Brazilian Butt Lift or even as a facial filler in lieu of synthetic facial fillers, it seems to make sense that a fat bank will be necessary to store what used to be thrown out as medical waste, leftover fat.
Dallas cranial facial plastic surgeon Dr. David Genecov has worked with Cytori for the last 5 years to help build a program that will bank patients' fat and their inherent stem cells for use in later years. "We wanted to be able to take fat out, deep freeze it effectively in cryo preservation, and then be able to pull that fat out at a later date to inject into the patient in an outpatient basis. They have one big operation where their fat is taken, harvested and frozen and after that, they can come back for other small procedures in the office using their own fat, decreasing their downtime and ultimately decreasing cost."
BioLife works with physicians, including Denver VASER Hi-Def specialist Dr. David Broadway, across the country to store their patients fat for future use. After the liposuction is performed, the patients fat is sent to the BioLife facility where the fat that contains regenerative stem cells is frozen to -186 in the vapor phase of liquid nitrogen. Similar to how eggs, sperm and long term plasma storage is being conducted, the fat remains cryogenically frozen until needed and is then sent back to the physician to use on the same patient.
The concept is not so wild as it sounds as Dr. Genecov compares it to other procedures performed with previously cryogenically frozen materail, "We have had cryo preserved tissues injected into our bodies for years. Red blood cells, platelets, plasma that have been frozen and then put back into us with preservatives and things of that nature which have not caused us any problems. This is an adaptation of a long used process made specifically for fat and regenerative cells associated with fat."
The fat that is being banked can be straight from the body or it can be the extracted regenerative stem cells from fat that has been broken in the physician's office. That choice is up to the patient and the physician. However, Dr. Genecov recommends that patients bank their fat rather than the separated out regenerative stem cells for two reasons. "First, the cost of stem cell extraction will go done as technology improves and second, the retrieval process may get even better," says Dr. Genecov, "So if patients don't need those regenerative cells today, we recommend keeping the fat because you can always use the fat."
Cost of banking varies across the nation but is typically built into the cost of procedure and depends on the volume being frozen. The additional cost starts at $1,700 and includes processing and one year of fat banking.
Many skeptics and cautious experts are still unsure if stem cells really deliver all the benefits that stem cell advocates would like them to believe. According to Dr. Genecov, "We know that the pre-clinical and current early stage clinical trials for the usage of regenerative stem cells have value. We know that use of your stem regenerative cells from your fat is going to help you. The key is dose, time and the specific disease." Based on available research, Dr. Genecov believes the investment in freezing your fat for future use is well worth the money.