Some Scientists Look To Fat For Stem Cells

Dr. Robert Ersek, a 66-year-old plastic surgeon, invited reporters to his Texas operating room recently and, in front of their cameras, proceeded to liposuction himself. After numbing the skin near his navel, he slipped in a hollow tube about a quarter-inch wide and moved it back and forth until it had sucked out about half a pound of fat. Ersek's office throws away tons of liposuctioned fat every year. But he shipped his own to a California company for processing and long-term storage of some of the cells from that fat. Why did he do that? It turns out the type of cell being stored for Ersek is medically promising. In fact, an international group of scientists is meeting this week in Pittsburgh to discuss its potential. Medical value? In fat? The waist product most people want to get rid of? It's true. As members of the fledgling International Fat Applied Technology Society will discuss at their meeting, fat is a little-discussed source of stem cells, those versatile biological building blocks that can morph into a variety of tissues. Fat-derived stem cells, researchers say, might someday provide replacement tissue for treating such conditions as Parkinson's disease (news - web sites), heart attacks, heart failure and bone defects.

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