'Liposuction leftovers' can be easily converted to stem cells
The human fat removed during liposuction procedures contains versatile cells that can be easily coaxed to become stem cells, according to a new study.
The 'liposuction leftovers' can be more easily converted to induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, than the skin cells most often used by researchers, according to researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine.
Researchers hope that reprogramming adult cells to function like embryonic stem cells is one way to create patient-specific cell lines to regenerate tissue or study specific diseases.
The good news? There's a lot of liposuction leftovers to go around in the U.S.
"Thirty to 40 percent of adults in this country are obese," said cardiologist Joseph Wu, the paper's senior author, in a statement. "Not only can we start with a lot of cells, we can reprogram them much more efficiently. Fibroblasts, or skin cells, must be grown in the lab for three weeks or more before they can be reprogrammed. But these stem cells from fat are ready to go right away."
That the cells can be converted without the need for mouse-derived "feeder cells" may make them ideal starting material for human therapy.
Feeder cells are often used when growing human skin cells outside the body, but some scientists worry that cross-species contamination may make them unsuitable for human use.
Within a person's latticework of fat cells and collagen are multipotent cells called adipose stem cells. Unlike highly specialized skin-cell fibroblasts, these cells in the fat are versatile, and can become fat, bone or muscle as needed.
That inherent flexibility gives fat cells an edge over skin cells when it comes to stem cells, the researchers believe.
"These cells are not as far along on the differentiation pathway, so they're easier to back up to an earlier state," co-authort Ning Sun said. "They are more embryonic-like than fibroblasts, which take more effort to reprogram."
In practical terms, that may mean a suffering patient could have more biologically-tailored treatment.
"Imagine if we could isolate fat cells from a patient with some type of congenital cardiac disease," Wu said in a statement. "We could then differentiate them into cardiac cells, study how they respond to different drugs or stimuli and see how they compare to normal cells. This would be a great advance." [via]