One of the hottest topics in plastic surgery today is stem cells and fat grafting. It is now common to take fat from unwanted areas, such as the hips, abdomen, bra rolls, and inner knees and transfer it to areas such as the lips, cheeks, buttocks, and breasts. I perform fat grafting with stem cells for most patients at my Toronto practice who get facelift, neck lift, and eye rejuvenation surgeries to minimize the need for synthetic fillers in the long run.
What Are Stem Cells?
Adult stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can differentiate into specialized cells. Interestingly, those stem cells were discovered in the 1960s at the University of Toronto, where I also did my residency in plastic surgery. Stem cells are found in many types of tissues including the blood, the umbilical cord, the bone marrow, and even within the fat cells.
It is now well known that stem cells act as a repair system for the body, replenishing adult tissue. This is why the technology is being used for various nerve, brain, and joint conditions. And now it is a hot topic for skin and soft tissue repair and rejuvenation.
How Does It Work for Cosmetic Rejuvenation?
Stem cells are present in various adult tissues, including the fatty tissue. The plastic surgeon harvests the fat, usually from an area with excessive and unwanted fat, and uses a centrifuge to remove the oil, blood, and the local anesthetic. The centrifugation will also bring the heavier stem cells to the lower third of the syringes. Those are the important cells. Once the stem cells are collected out of all the fat cells, they can then be reinjected in areas such as your face, lips, cheeks, and chin, as well as the breasts, buttocks, and so on.
It is strongly believed the stem cells are more resilient and will survive better than the average fat cells, so for this reason, I use only the lower third of the centrifuged fat when transferring to the face.
When I use fat grafting to augment the buttocks, as in a Brazilian butt lift, a very large amount of fat needs to be transferred (up to 800 milliliters per side), so I usually inject both normal fat and stem cells for my Toronto patients.
Another concept is PRP, or platelet-rich plasma. A good analogy is to consider PRP as a fertilizer in which the growth factors found in your blood’s plasma are reinjected in your facial tissues to stimulate the local stem cells. So PRP is often added to our facial surgeries, including fat grafting.
The Artistry of Stem Cell Fat Transfer
When creating a beautiful work of art, both the painter and the paint are important.
In a stem cell transfer, the quality of the fat is extremely important, and only a low-suction form liposuction can be used to not damage the fat cells. That requires time to do it right. My Toronto patients often rightly request a more dramatic “liposuction result,” so I will first harvest the fat by hand, and once I have enough for the transfer, I can complete the liposuction with my SAL and PAL high-suction machines. This does add surgical time, but patients appreciate combining the 2. I also like to harvest the fat from areas that tend to be stable over time, meaning the areas that are hard to burn off, such as the abdomen and love handles in men and the abdomen, saddlebags, and bra rolls for women.
The other factor is the artist, your plastic surgeon. To create a more youthful “you” requires meticulous treatment of the fat but also surgical precision in placement of the stem cells in multiple depths and layers of the soft tissue. I use the Coleman techniques of fat grafting. My most common areas to inject include the lips, the cheeks, the chin, the jaw contour to improve the jowls, the laugh lines, the temples, the upper and lower eye areas to improve the hollowed and tired look, the hands, and the buttocks.
So yes, it truly is rejuvenation from your hips to your lips!
Where do you wish you could transfer your fat? Tell us about it in a comment below.