Leftover Fat from Surgery Provides Wealth of Data to Researchers

 

Most plastic surgery patients don’t consider what happens to the leftovers from their procedures. However, according to a thought-provoking article in the UK Telegraph, leftover fat extracted through tummy tuck surgery and similar procedures has emerged as a boon to medical researchers and specialists. These surgical leftovers are helping doctors develop new insights.

According to Dr. Dylan Thompson, a senior lecturer in human and exercise psychology at Bath University, human fat holds a great deal of potential for research. It releases a variety of proteins and hormones into the body. Some of the potential insights include:

  • a better understanding of how exercise affects the body
  • converting fat into stem cells (instead of using controversial human embryos)
  • recycling the fat for use in breast reconstruction
  • understanding causes and treatments for obesity

Dr. Thompson originally began his investigations into the nature of fat by extracting fat samples from volunteers. These tiny samples had limited applications, however, and he eventually discovered the possibilities offered by plastic surgery. After seeing French doctors using leftover fat at Toulouse University, he says, “it really was a no-brainer to try and do the same thing here in the UK as well.” His team has since collected roughly 13 lb. of fat from a Bath clinic.

The use of fat in research has spawned a number of commercial enterprises. Cytori, a San Diego cell therapy clinic, has accumulated more than 2.5 tons of fat over the past 9 years, in order to research new applications for breast reconstruction. Other firms collect fat in special storage facilities and sell it to researchers and scientists.

Skin is another leftover product of plastic surgery that has been used for research purposes. In a number of studies, cosmetics and beauty giant L’Oréal uses cultures of human skin – extracted during breast reduction – instead of testing new products on animals.

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Posted in: Body Contouring

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