Study Report: Human fat yields multipurpose stem cells

The scientists at Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that the fat cells removed during liposuction can be easily and quickly transformed into induced Pluripotent Stem Cells, or iPS cells that may be able to cure diseases. Although scientists have said that it’s too soon to use excess fat to cure disease but theoretically, it would allow people to grow personalized replacements for ailing organs. It will also avoid the use of embryos, which has raised political and ethical debates.

In 2007, Shinya Yamanaka at Kyoto University, Japan transformed skin cells into embryo like stem cells. As these cells don’t come from embryos, they are called “induced pluripotent stem cells,” or iPS cells. Stanford researchers took a similar approach. However, fat cells seem to be more flexible and versatile than skin cells, so they can be reprogrammed more quickly and easily, making them potentially more useful in building colonies of IPS cells.

It takes about four weeks for skin cells to be “primed” for reprogramming, and then it takes an additional three to four weeks for iPS colonies to grow, according to Dr. Joseph Wu, study co-author and assistant professor of cardiology and radiology at Stanford’s School of Medicine. The same procedure when using fat cells can be as much as six weeks faster because the cells retrieved through liposuction are so plentiful, they can start reprogramming right away and have iPS cells in about two weeks.

However, the procedure is not yet ready for clinical application because it depends on genetically engineered viruses to do the job. It also remains unknown as to what extent the human body would reject iPS cells from other donors? The researchers are also uncertain about the count of years that it will take before the fat removed from one person by liposuction could lead to the repair of damaged organ in someone else. All said and done, the hope is there that weight loss in future will not only relieve one from obesity but also give new lease of life to others!

Source: CNN Report on Human Fat Yields Stem Cells.

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