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General Health Channel
Reported April 11, 2011

Fat Grafting For Faces

PITTSBURGH, PA (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- plastic surgeons have long performed fat grafting for cosmetic reasons, but researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have teamed with the department of defense to study new ways to help soldiers with facial injuries by using adult stem cells from harvested fat.

“I chose to serve with the army. I chose to serve with special operations. I chose to serve in the infantry," Soldier Jeremy Feldbusch told Ivanhoe.

Jeremy was just 23 and deployed in Northern Iraq when his unit came under attack.

 “A piece of shrapnel about an inch by an inch and a quarter thick penetrated the side of my right eye," Jeremy explained. "That was the start of a different battle for me.”

The attack left him blind, brain injured, and severely scarred. Doctor Peter Rubin is part of a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center team researching new ways to precisely reshape injured faces using a patient’s own store of fat.

“That’s our best replacement tissue after trauma or cancer therapy,” J. Peter Rubin, M.D., chief of plastic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, said.

Doctor Rubin removes fat from a patient’s abdomen or thighs, then, it’s processed separating tissue layers from other fluids. He then re-injects the concentrated fat into the injured area adding volume and smoothing it out. One potential side effect is grafted fat may be re-absorbed by the body. Ultimately, researchers want to know if adult stem cells present in fat tissue will prevent that.

“We know that they will be stressed by the surgical procedure, and under the stress, they are capable of releasing different growth factors that can assist in the healing process,” Dr. Rubin said.

For now, patients like Jeremy are reaping the benefits of the research  even without super-charged  fat tissue. Jeremy's sunken forehead and large facial scar are less noticeable.

“I don’t know that it’s given me any more confidence," Jeremy said. "It’s made me feel more like me."

European researchers have shown that fat grafts performed with tissue enriched by the stem cells show promise, but no studies in this country have proven its effectiveness yet. Pittsburgh researchers say that is one of the main goals of their study. MORE

More Information

Click here for additional research on Fat Grafting For Faces

Click here for Ivanhoe's full-length interview with Dr. J. Peter Rubin

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marsha Hitchcock at mhitchcock@ivanhoe.com

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