Fat Stem Cell Arthritis Claims? Is Light Activation of Fat Stem Cells Just Another Gimmick or the Real Deal?

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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fat stem cell arthritisFat stem cells and arthritis? This past month, I’ve shown that we have very little animal or human data that fat stem cells help arthritis. Despite this, there’s been an explosion in companies selling fat stem cell kits to doctors that are used to treat arthritis. About three years ago, I first heard about a company that was selling a fat stem cell isolation kit that involved using a LASER light to activate the fat stem cells. I blogged on the magic fat stem cell light awhile back, showing that the medical research really didn’t support the claims of the kit manufacturer. I also knew there were countless things that could activate stem cells. For example, certain types of ultrasound, various wavelengths of light, and many types of electromagnetic energy will all boost stem cells to some small degree. Which brings us back to the fat stem cell LASER kit. A search under fat stem cells on Google will yield many clinics who took a weekend course to learn how to use this kit, all of which generally copy and paste the manufacturer’s claims that the LASER does miraculous things to the cells (see diagram above-I have removed the manufacturer’s name). While our advanced lab has tested a few of these things (for example, a few years back we tested whether various magnetic energy devices on the market helped stem cells-they did not), we hadn’t had the time to test this claim. So I was grateful that a recent research paper did test the magic stem cell light. The paper is actually one of the more scientifically dense ones out there, but to translate the jargon, it’s actually about why many fat stem cell company’s claims of very high stem cell yields are wildly exaggerated. Basically, the companies are using simple counters or methods that mistake debris from the fat stem cell processing for actual cells, hence the wildly inflated counts. When this group tested these fat stem cell count claims, the actual numbers of cells in the processed fat dropped precipitously. Sticking with their myth buster posture, the group also tested whether the magic LASER stem cell light worked. They used the kit and process per the instructions and found that it actually reduced stem cell growth in two of the three samples they tested! So much for the magic stem cell light. The upshot? The fat stem cell procedure involving LASER activation is a great marketing gimmick, but the concept doesn’t appear to hold water. In addition, the fact that many clinics advertise this benefit without first verifying if the concept makes research sense, is another good example of the wild west mentality that is prevailing in fat stem cell use right now.

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Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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