Doctors are harvesting embryonic stem cells in adult patients’ fat using liposuction performed under local anesthesia. Kevin Joseph underwent the procedure in hopes that the stem cells in his fat may one day save his life. Chuck Henry reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on June 6, 2013.
The use of stem cells to treat illness is new but exploding as scientists discover innovative treatments.
Some parents save their children’s cord blood because it contains embryonic stem cells, an opportunity older Americans did not have when they were born.
But now there may be a way for adults to bank their own stem cells through liposuction.
Kevin Joseph is undergoing liposuction not because he wants to lose inches, although that is a nice side benefit.
“I exercise, I eat right. I never considered liposuction,” he said.
The main reason he’s doing this is because he thinks someday it may save his life.
Scientists have discovered that human fat contains more stem cells than any other tissue in the body.
And not just any ordinary stem cells.
As UCLA researchers recently discovered, fat contains embryonic stem cells -- the most versatile stem cells of all.
“You can, in the future, make that cell into any tissue in your body, at least that’s the potential,” said Dr. John Joseph, at the Clinical Testing Center of Beverly Hills. “They literally should be able to grow kidney – any part of your body – because it’s embryonic.”
Those stem cells in fat can now be stored for future use.
Doctors extract the fat in an hour-long procedure performed under local anesthesia. Patients don’t even have to go through a full liposuction to get the amount of fat needed to bank stem cells. A small amount will do.
“It’s a small amount – 20 CC’s – which basically is less than a shot glass,” Joseph said.
The fat is then sent to a stem cell bank called Adicyte.
“You extract the cells, then Fed Ex them overnight to the company. They then process it. Then they can freeze them 20, 30 years – probably indefinitely,” Joseph said.
Kevin doesn’t know if or how he will need the stem cells he has extracted. But he feels better knowing they will be there.
“No one knows what life’s going to bring,” he said. “Genetically, something could occur that causes something to go sideways. Now, you have the ability to correct that and continue to live a long and healthy life.”
It costs about $2,000 to extract and prepare the stem cells for banking. After that, it’s $120 a year to store the stem cells.