Stem cell facelift. Stem cell breast augmentation. Stem cell buttlift. You may have heard the buzz on these types of procedures, and maybe have even seen actress Suzanne Somers talking about her own breast reconstruction, but some doctors are warning that both the research and the technology aren’t ready for aesthetic stem cell procedures in the U.S.-yet.
“It’s a promising new frontier and there’s a lot of hope for stem cells,” says La Jolla, CA, plastic surgeon Robert Singer, MD. “But for aesthetic procedures that claim to use stem cells-at this point there’s no support in the valid peer-reviewed literature to show safety or efficacy.”
In fact, Dr. Singer explains that the technology required to separate stem cells for these types of procedures isn’t even approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The FDA says you’re allowed to inject fat and stem cells if they’re used at the same time. “In the U.S., there are no devices that are currently approved by the FDA to separate the stem cells from the fat,” says Dr. Singer.
He warns that those who claim to offer stem cell procedures for aesthetic rejuvenating purposes may just be performing fat injections that naturally include stem cells, but they are not purely stem cell injections because they are simply not available unless the practitioner is using illegal separating devices.
“The FDA has a different set of regulations stating that you can’t advertise or promote [stem cell injections] unless you have certain licensing,” he says. “People who are advertising stem cell facelifts are running afoul of the FDA.”
Too many questions are still swirling around the use of stem cells, Dr. Singer says. “Do stem cells improve results? Nobody knows. Are fat-derived stem cells effective is aesthetic procedures? We don’t know yet. What is the critical number of stem cells needed if they are to be effective? That’s known. And more important-are long-term results safe and are they more effective than injections alone? There’s no good data,” he explains.
“Hopefully there will be some benefit. And if there is, plastic surgeons will embrace it. But at this point, it’s buzz. That’s not science.”
Salt Lake City, UT, plastic surgeon Renato Saltz, MD, says the marketing ploys are confusing patients.
“One of my breast cancer patients recently asked me why I was not using Suzanne Somers’ stem cell treatments for her breast reconstruction,” Dr. Saltz says. “I do not think stem cells are ready for primetime! I’m sure there will be many contributions in the near future; however, advertisements like ‘facelift with stem cells’ or ‘stem cells for breast reconstruction’ make me very concerned.
“We lack evidence-based medicine on this matter and are just scratching the surface.”
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