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The Role of Stem Cells in Aesthetic Surgery: Fact or Fiction?

McArdle, Adrian M.B., B.Ch.; Senarath-Yapa, Kshemendra M.B.B.Chir.; Walmsley, Graham G. B.S.; Hu, Michael M.D., M.P.H.; Atashroo, David A. M.D.; Tevlin, Ruth M.B., B.Ch.; Zielins, Elizabeth M.D.; Gurtner, Geoffrey C. M.D.; Wan, Derrick C. M.D.; Longaker, Michael T. M.D.

Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery:
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000000404
Cosmetic: Original Articles
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Abstract

Background: Stem cells are attractive candidates for the development of novel therapies, targeting indications that involve functional restoration of defective tissue. Although most stem cell therapies are new and highly experimental, there are clinics around the world that exploit vulnerable patients with the hope of offering supposed stem cell therapies, many of which operate without credible scientific merit, oversight, or other patient protection.

Methods: The authors review the potential and the drawbacks of incorporation of stem cells in cosmetic procedures. A review of U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved indications and ongoing clinical trials with adipose stem cells is provided. Furthermore, a “snapshot” analysis of Web sites using the search terms “stem cell therapy” or “stem cell treatment” or “stem cell facelift” was performed.

Results: Despite the protective net cast by regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and professional societies such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the authors are witnessing worrying advertisements for procedures such as stem cell face lifts, stem cell breast augmentations, and even stem cell vaginal rejuvenation. The marketing and promotion of stem cell procedures in aesthetic surgery is not adequately supported by clinical evidence in the majority of cases.

Conclusions: Stem cells offer tremendous potential, but the marketplace is saturated with unsubstantiated and sometimes fraudulent claims that may place patients at risk. With plastic surgeons at the forefront of stem cell–based regenerative medicine, it is critically important that they provide an example of a rigorous approach to research, data collection, and advertising of stem cell therapies.

In Brief

Video Discussion by Paul Cederna, M.D., is available online for this article.

Author Information

Stanford, Calif.

From the Hagey Laboratory for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, and the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Stanford University.

Received for publication December 3, 2013; accepted January 21, 2014.

The first three authors contributed equally to this article.

Disclosure: None of the authors has a financial interest in any of the products or devices mentioned in this article.

A Video Discussion by Paul Cederna accompanies this article. Go to PRSJournal.com and click on “Video Discussions” in the “Videos” tab to watch.

Michael T. Longaker, M.D., M.B.A., Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Hagey Laboratory for Pediatric Regenerative Medicine, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, Stanford University School of Medicine, 257 Campus Drive, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif. 94305-5148, longaker@stanford.edu

©2014American Society of Plastic Surgeons