Stem cells are a unique group of biological cells that have the capability to self-renew and differentiate into different cell types. The field of regenerative medicine has delved into the science of repairing and replacing diseased tissues and organs through stem cell transplantation.
So, what does it have to do with plastic surgery? Regenerative medicine and plastic surgery share the basic principle of using a patient’s own tissue to restore and enhance the body. There are believed to be many advantages to stem cell use in plastic surgery including accelerated wound healing, reduced scarring, and increased fat graft survival. A very promising role for stem cells is to grow tissues, such as bone and cartilage, that can then be used in the operating room to improve the outcome of surgical procedures. However, the stem cell hype that has been prevalent in recent years does not equate to proven, safe treatment strategies or outcomes with this technology. While the public is bombarded with exaggerated claims of innovative, stunning results and improved safety, many unassuming patients are being subjected to unregulated stem cell procedures. Until such time that adequate scientific and clinical evidence to promote more widespread use of stem cells in plastic surgery is published, patients should adhere to the old adage of “buyer beware”.