Liposuctioned fat stem cells to repair bodies

February 22, 2007

Expanding waistlines, unsightly bulges: people will gladly remove excess body fat to improve their looks. But unwanted fat also contains stem cells with the potential to repair defects and heal injuries in the body. A team led by Philippe Collas at the University of Oslo in Norway has identified certain chemical marks that allow him to predict which, among the hundreds of millions of stem cells in liposuctioned fat, are best at regenerating tissue.

Uncovering the nature and location of these molecular tags could allow scientists to pull off the ultimate trick of taking a patient’s own fat cells and using them for therapy, Collas told researchers gathered at the EuroSTELLS Workshop ‘Exploring Chromatin in Stem Cells’ held on January 23-24, in Montpellier, France.

"Fat tissue is an underappreciated source of stem cells," Collas pointed out. Unlike other sources of adult stem cells, such as bone marrow, fat is abundant and there is no shortage of donors. "It’s wonderful, we have litres and litres of material from cosmetic surgery clinics and end up with bucketfuls of stem cells to work with," he notes.

EuroSTELLS Project Leader Cesare Galli, from the University of Bologna, Italy has high hopes that transplanted fat stem cells will restore injured sports horses to their former glory. "Our aim is to regenerate the tendon structure that does not repair spontaneously," says Galli. Once scar tissue is formed, it hinders the animal’s recovery. "If you intervene, with cell transplants, within one week, you can repair the lesion," Galli notes.
Like horses, humans are also vulnerable to joint injuries, and rehabilitations are long and costly. Now experience with horses is paving the way to cell therapies for sport-related tendon injuries in humans. Therapies using bone marrow stem cells, similar to fat stem cells, have achieved some successes, but the focus is shifting to fat, since the tissue is easier to access and extract than the bone marrow.
That fat-based methods work is not surprising, perhaps, because adipose tissue is closely related to bone, cartilage, muscle and other connective tissue. But some say it is impossible to re-programme adult cells to become nerve or liver cells, for example, without using embryos. Adult stem cells, such as those from fat, are thought to have more limited potential.

Collas insists that the transformation is possible. The hurdle lies not with the genes but with a cell’s epigenetic status, the subtle chemical modifications of DNA and its surrounding histone proteins. Epigenetic marks contribute to switching genes on and off, and stem cells rely on them heavily as they divide and mature. The Oslo team has found that low rates of DNA methylation, for instance, boost the chances of transforming fat stem cells from one cell type into another. "Look at a cell’s epigenetic profile," says Collas, "and you may be able to predict what that cell is likely to turn into."

These epigenetic signatures have grabbed everyone’s attention, acknowledges Ernest Arenas, a EuroSTELLS researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. "Scientists in the stem cell field are starting to realise that for cell manipulations to succeed they need to pay attention to their epigenetic marks. Cells can’t be pushed along to become a different cell type unless they start out with the right set of [epigenetic] conditions."

It is a complex area but one that is loaded with promise. "Everyone is talking about epigenetics," says Collas. If he has his way, people may soon be visiting plastic surgeons not just for cosmetic reasons, but for therapy.

Source: European Science Foundation

Explore further: Study identifies stem cell that gives rise to new bone and cartilage in humans

Related Stories

Study identifies stem cell that gives rise to new bone and cartilage in humans

September 20, 2018
A decade-long effort led by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists has been rewarded with the identification of the human skeletal stem cell.

Small molecule plays big role in weaker bones as we age

September 18, 2018
With age, expression of a small molecule that can silence others goes way up while a key signaling molecule that helps stem cells make healthy bone goes down, scientists report.

Intestines modify their cellular structure in response to diet

September 20, 2018
Body organs such as the intestine and ovaries undergo structural changes in response to dietary nutrients that can have lasting impacts on metabolism, as well as cancer susceptibility, according to Carnegie's Rebecca Obniski, ...

Duchenne muscular dystrophy: How muscle cells journey to the dark side

September 11, 2018
Promoting repair of dystrophic muscles is a major goal in the treatment of muscular dystrophies but is complicated by the incomplete knowledge of the cellular and molecular events that drive muscle regeneration.

How scientists developed a breakthrough drug for multiple sclerosis

August 30, 2018
Imagine waking up to a world that blurs in front of you. Heading to the kitchen for breakfast, you're hit with a wave of exhaustion, and your arms and legs feel like lead. This is the reality for the more than 400,000 people ...

Researchers discover gene that controls bone-to-fat ratio in bone marrow

July 12, 2018
In an unexpected discovery, UCLA researchers have found that a gene previously known to control human metabolism also controls the equilibrium of bone and fat in bone marrow as well as how an adult stem cell expresses its ...

Recommended for you

Japanese team creates human oogonia using human stem cells in artificial mouse ovaries

September 21, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in Japan has successfully generated human oogonia inside of artificial mouse ovaries using human stem cells. In their paper published in the journal Science, the ...

A new approach to developing a vaccine against vivax malaria

September 21, 2018
A novel study reports an innovative approach for developing a vaccine against Plasmodium vivax, the most prevalent human malaria parasite outside sub-Saharan Africa. The study led by Hernando A. del Portillo and Carmen Fernandez-Becerra, ...

Researchers explore how changes in diet alter microbiome in artificial intestine

September 21, 2018
Using an artificial intestine they created, researchers have shown that the microbiome can quickly adapt from the bacterial equivalent of a typical western diet to one composed exclusively of dietary fats. That adaptation ...

A Trojan Horse delivery for treating a rare, potentially deadly, blood-clotting disorder

September 21, 2018
In proof-of-concept experiments, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have highlighted a potential therapy for a rare but potentially deadly blood-clotting disorder, TTP. The researchers deliver this therapeutic ...

Scientists grow human esophagus in lab

September 20, 2018
Scientists working to bioengineer the entire human gastrointestinal system in a laboratory now report using pluripotent stem cells to grow human esophageal organoids.

Researchers identify human skeletal stem cells

September 20, 2018
Human skeletal stem cells that become bone, cartilage, or stroma cells have been isolated from fetal and adult bones. This is the first time that skeletal stem cells, which had been observed in rodent models, have been identified ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.