“I feel fat today.” “Do I look fat in these jeans?” “My face is fat.” Everyday someone somewhere either hears or says something about “fat.” Their own fat, their neighbor’s fat, Aunt Suzy’s cat’s fat. With today’s society so concerned about “thin,” fat gets a bad rap. It’s not the case though in some medical research circles.
Researchers in Spain are using stem cells from fat to heal perianal fistulas in patients with cryptoglandular and Crohn’s disease. Principal investigator Damian Garcia-Olmo, PhD, staff surgeon, department of general surgery, La Paz University, Madrid, Spain, recently presented results of a phase 2 study of stem cell transplantation with complex perianal fistulae who received autologous mesenchymal stem cells expanded from fat tissue samples.
The study involved 49 patients with complex perianal fistulae randomized by the investigators to standard treatment with fibrin glue or to fibrin glue plus autologous stem cells delivered to the site of the lesion. Those in the stem cell arm had fat extracted with liposuction and stem cells were grown up in the lab for re-injection 3 months later.
Treatment was repeated if lesions had not healed at 8 weeks. At the end of the second 8-week period, healing had taken place in 70.83% of patients who received stem cells and in 16% of those who received fibrin glue alone.
In the U.S., researchers at the McGowan Institute are isolating, characterizing, and testing adult stem cells from fat. Fat, or adipose tissue, contains an abundant number of adult stem cells, over 10 times more than in bone marrow. These cells not only regenerate adipose tissue, but they can reconstruct a variety of injuries and defects by being coaxed to develop into nerves, bone, or cartilage.
The Adipose Stem Cell Center provides the University of Pittsburgh with a center of expertise in the isolation, growth and differentiation, biology, and therapeutic applications of stem cells derived from adipose tissues. By partnering physician-researchers with investigators in the fields of tissue engineering, cell therapy, adipose biology, stem cell physiology, and growth and development, we are uniquely positioned to translate our findings into new medical treatments.
The Center’s co-directors, McGowan Institute faculty members Kacey Marra, PhD, and J. Peter Rubin, MD, are exploring the many possibilities of adipose stem cell research. Imagine a post-cancer breast reconstruction technique that uses a woman’s own stem cells, isolated from a sample of her fat, to form a breast with the look and feel of natural tissue. Imagine a treatment for congenital skull and face defects that continues to grow and develop along with a child. Imagine regrowing the soft tissue—including the nerves—of soldiers injured in battle.
Some of the current research projects of Drs. Marra and Rubin using fat cells include: Injectable Engineered Tissue for Cancer Reconstruction, Stem Cells From Fat Being Studied As Option For Breast Reconstruction, and a Tissue Engineered Nerve Guide.
Illustration: Kacey Marra.
MedPage Today (05/22/07)
Nutrition Horizon (05/28/07)
Doctor’s Guide (05/28/07)
The Adipose Stem Cell Center
Kacey Marra, PhD
J. Peter Rubin, MD
Science Daily (10/27/06)
Pittsburgh Post Gazette (10/05/04)