Many Americans are trying to get rid of excess body fat; others want or need more in different places. Now researchers have come up with a fascinating way to turn one person's extra padding into another person's vital tissue.
In the journal Biomaterials, researchers from Queens University in Ontario, Canada describe a method to recycle liposuction leftovers into a biological scaffold that appears to turn stem cells into fat cells. Like a well-fertilized garden patch nurturing the growth of seeds into vegetables, the recycled scaffold seems to provides the right physical and chemical environment to coax the stem cells to mature into fat cells.
The researchers took human fat tissue removed during elective cosmetic surgeries and used a five-day process to gently strip the fat cells away from the supporting matrix. They seeded the matrix with stem cells harvested from human donor fat. Stem cells can develop into many different cell types and need specific chemical signals to tell them what type of cell to become.
Most isolated tissue grown from stem cells require these added chemicals as well as a supportive matrix to give it shape and strength. But the Queens University researchers' recycled scaffold seemed to serve as both support and signal for the future fat cells. The stem cells in the scaffold started to express significant levels of two master proteins that help cement the cells' fate as fat cells, and they did it without requiring any added chemical signals.