Are Stem Cells the Next Cosmetic Breakthrough?

Stem cells have stirred up quite a bit of controversy, but they’ve definitely stirred up a lot of positive excitement too. There’s mounting optimism about the future role of stem cells in medicine, particularly within the med spa field. However, patients should be cautious when it comes to med spas that promise to deliver facial and body rejuvenation procedures using stem cells. Whether stem cells end up in a starring role as the next big breakthrough in the cosmetic industry, the fact remains that sufficient studies and research to test their effectiveness and safety have yet to be completed.

Stem Cells and Cosmetic Treatments

Stem cells are capable of growing into any type of specialized cell, so they can help produce healthy new tissue in the body. This means there are virtually limitless applications as to how this ability could be harnessed to help patients, from creating new cartilage in arthritic joints to growing functional pancreas cells for diabetics. Researchers are even studying possible uses of stem cells for diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, along with looking at stem cells’ ability to help patients after trauma such as strokes, spinal cord injuries or severe burns.

Like the rest of the medical community, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) is busy working to perform appropriate clinical testing for the use of stem cells in cosmetic procedures and determine the role that cell-based regeneration may be able to play from an aesthetic perspective. When you consider the fact that stem cells actually help repair and replace tissue at the cellular level, it’s easy to see how—especially when it comes to anti-aging procedures—the ability to generate new cells could be a game-changer.

Buyers Beware

Despite the potential that stem cells represent, a “buyer beware” caveat must be issued here. Many doctors are concerned with the growing number of advertisements for treatments claiming to incorporate the benefits of stem cells in cosmetic procedures from face lifts to breast augmentation and even vaginal rejuvenation, because the effectiveness of those treatments have not yet undergone the rigorous research and testing that should be performed before touting such benefits.

Furthermore, such ads are often misleading about what kinds of stem cells are used in these treatments. For example, some providers that claim to offer stem cell facelifts make no indication as to whether proper cell-sorting procedures are being used to collect the highest-quality stem cells that are most likely to be effective. Other clinics may market what they’d dubbed “stem cell” treatments, but that utilize platelet proteins rather than actual stem cells. Not to say that all such procedures are inaccurately described, but patients should do their own research into the validity of such claims before undergoing any such procedure, and be aware that the efficacy of the vast majority of these options has yet to be proven.

It’s important for patients to remember that many so-called stem cell procedures haven’t yet been through the clinical testing and trials that are necessary to validate a procedure’s safety and effectiveness, and are not yet FDA-approved. Although the world will undoubtedly see tremendous breakthroughs in stem cell applications in the very near future, the best strategy for now is to find a med spa that operates under the supervision of a board certified plastic surgeon for a tried-and-true approach to facial rejuvenation using proven techniques and treatments.

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