Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Keeping Abreast . . .

As if we didn't have enough already to debate, it seems that stem cell research now has a new twist.

Much has been said about stem cells harvested from aborted fetuses and cord blood. Now adult tissue and body fluids are cultured and enhanced for cosmetic surgery.

A 51 year old woman is participating in a new way to enhance the breast.

Dr. Yoshimura jabbed the underside of the woman's left breast with a thick, long needle, drawing it in and out. At his side, an assistant slowly cranked the handle of a canister filled with an orange-colored mixture, pumping it into the needle through a tube. The substance was a fat concoction from the woman's own body -- which had been processed in an adjoining laboratory to fortify the stem cells it contained. Then it was injected into the patient to enlarge her breasts.

No stem cells are harvested, only what is already there is "fortified".

So where is the controversy?

This is uncharted territory for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which regulates products and devices but not procedures. However, the FDA says fat augmented with stem cells creates a "biologic product" that would require regulatory approval.

So it appears the vast right wing conspiracy folks will have a while before they have another boycott target.

During a single operation, fat is siphoned from a woman's thigh or abdomen and then processed using various techniques. The fat is injected back into the breasts. Because the patient is the donor, there is no risk of tissue rejection.

From a layman's perspective, it seems harmless enough. The biggest problem in the past with "fat transplants" was the implanted fat cells died and turned into lumps or calcification's. This procedure seems to preserve the integrity of the cells by creating a flow of fresh blood.

Dr. Yoshimura performs the transplants at Cellport Clinic in Yokohama. Perhaps this is just another venture into medical tourism.
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