Finally?A Use For That Fat

Researchers at UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh have found a legitimate scientific use for your spare tire and love handles. When removed through liposuction, stem cells can be isolated from the fat.

Stem cells are master cells that can become anything in the body, including nerves, bone and muscle. They can be used to grow new heart muscles for cardiac patients, new insulin-producing cells for diabetics and new nerve tissues for people suffering from spinal injuries, Parkinsons or Alzheimers. They can also be used for breast reconstruction after cancer surgery.

Discovered just two years ago, stem cells have generated a storm of controversy because it was at first thought they could only be isolated from embryonic cells. The best sources for these were fetuses removed during abortions or excess embryos from in vitro fertilization. The Bush administration has announced it wants to block federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

?It may ultimately take the steam out of the stem cell/embryo debate, allowing people easy access to large quantities of their own cells,? notes plastic surgeon Dr. Marc Hedrick. He says we should see ?unwanted fat as a vigorous tissue with a tremendous potential for good. It?s not just that spare tire that we?re all looking to get rid of.?

There are 600,000 liposuctions done every year in the U.S. and a pound of fat contains millions of stem cells. ?I?m sure there would be a lot of people willing to donate fat,? says plastic surgeon Dr. Adam Katz.

We can envision a future where patients are worked on by the plastic surgeon before they are operated on by their cardiologist, and wake up in the hospital with a new heart and slimmer thighs.

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