When Fat is More than Fat – Why Adipose-Derived Stem Cells are the Present AND Future of Stem Cell Therapies

Stem cell therapies are becoming more mainstream as new and innovative procedures are researched and performed daily. There are numerous ways to obtain the stem cells that make these procedures effective. They are found in embryos, although they aren’t used due to the ethical challenges presented. They are found in umbilical cords, and in various parts of human tissues, including adipose.

Adipose, a scientific term for fat, contains an abundance of stem cells that have the capability of treating a variety of ailments. In addition to being a host to these micro tools, adipose is also readily available. In fact, it’s often thrown away en masse.

Each year, about 200,000 liposuction procedures are performed in the United States. The adipose removed from those undergoing the surgery has been discarded as medical waste in the past. It’s hard to say exactly how many pounds of fat are sent to waste facilities by plastic surgeons, due to the varying nature of each procedure, but regardless of the number, the benefits of what was previously thought of as waste is remarkable.

Rather than discard the tissue pulled from the individuals, medical professionals can study and utilize the cells found inside in order to treat patients suffering from painful injuries and illnesses.

In addition to being more plentiful, and better performing in most applications, adipose-derived stem cells are much easier to obtain than other types of regularly used stem cells, like those from bone marrow. It should be noted that liposuction is not an easy procedure, but the prevalence of the surgery leaves a large amount of medical waste that can be used rather than forcing donors to undergo targeted procedures where harvesting is the only goal.

Currently, treatments are most often performed using the patient’s own stem cells, so adipose is attained from the individual, rather than a donor or from the use of the previously discussed medical waste obtained from plastic surgeries. This greatly reduces the risks associated with tissue transplants, like rejection. While it may sound scary, the harvesting procedure is quick and can take place in one office visit.

The Harvesting

A small amount of adipose is removed from the patient. Unfortunately, the required amount is not enough to see a change on the scale!


The adipose is placed into a centrifuge, and the fast movements separate the cells. This allows the doctor to isolate the stem cells for treatment.


Your stem cells are then injected back into your system, where they get to work regenerating tissues, providing anti-inflammation properties, and reversing the effects of illness or injury. Please note that the healing properties of these mini miracles are not instant, and the body will still have to undergo its natural process of healing. However, it will be more effective and offer faster relief than if left to its own devices.

Stem cell therapies continue to provide relief to those experiencing chronic pain and other conditions that reduce quality of life. The utilization of tissues like adipose makes treatment more readily available and effective, so more people can find relief.


Johnson, Scott. Doctors to use discarded fat from liposuction for stem cell research. News4Jax [World Wide Web site]. Jacksonville, Florida. March 12, 2017 [cited June 20, 2017]. Available at www.news4jax.com/health/doctors-to-ise-discarded-fat-from-liposuction-for-stem-cell-research.

Marra, Kacey G., Rubin, Peter J., Tsuji, Wakako. Adipose-derived stem cells: Implications in tissue regeneration. World Journal of Stem Cells. July 26, 2014.

Plastic Surgery Procedures Continue Steady Growth in U.S. American Society of Plastic Surgeons [World Wide Web site]. Arlington Heights, Illinois. February 26, 2014 [cited June 20, 2017]. Available at www.plasticsurgery.org/press-releases/plastic-surgery-procedures-continue-steady-growth-in-us.

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