Fat Stem Cell Therapy: The Impacts of Aging, Disease, and Weight on Cells

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fat stem cell therapy

Fat stem cell therapy continues to explode, with literally 20 new clinics popping up every week. I blogged awhile back that fat stem cells taken from overweight patients are not as potent as fat taken from thinner patients. Three new studies published this past few months add to that discussion. The focus of the recent investigations are how disease, aging, and weight impacts fat stem cells.

The first study looked at fat stem cells from patients with cardiovascular disease. First the good news, when fat stem cells from older patients with heart disease were compared to those from older patients without heart disease, there wasn’t a difference in the ability of the fat stem cells to make new blood vessels. Now the bad news, fat stem cells from older patients in both categories were less able to make new blood vessels when compared to fat stem cells from younger patients.

The second study also looked at fat stem cells and aging. The “money shot” graph from that paper is above. Regrettably this study wasn’t very sophisticated and made little effort to look at stem cell quality like the first. They also only looked at the nucleated cell count in the fat, which is a very rough metric of the stem cells in the fat (only a very small portion of the nucleated cells are stem cells). For more information on what these numbers mean, see my Doctor-Patient Guide to what stem cell numbers mean. What did they find? This rough metric of a fat stem cell count declined substantially after age 40. After that age, it dropped to a bit more than half of the value that they found in women under 40.

Finally, a third interesting study looked at the lifespan of fat stem cells from normal weight, obese, and post bariatric surgery patients. Interestingly, the stem cells from obese patients had a shorter lifespan and were less healthy than either the stem cells from the normal weight or post weight loss surgery patients. Basically, being overweight hurt the DNA of the fat stem cells.

The upshot? Fat stem cells are impacted by aging and being overweight. Being older and heavy is likely a double whammy for your cells. While some of these issues can be dealt with via dosing (administer more fat stem cells), the third study showed that cellular DNA damage was accumulating in the fat stem cells of patients who were overweight. Therefore solving the issue in some patients may not be as easy as just increasing the dose.

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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. View Profile

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