UCLA/Pitt researchers transform human fat into bone, muscle, cartilage

April 10, 2001

Discovery of first plentiful source of stem cells could make fetal tissue use unnecessary

Ushering in a new era of tissue engineering research, scientists at UCLA and the University of Pittsburgh have isolated fat as the first practical, plentiful and economic source of stem cells used to grow a variety of human tissues in the laboratory.

The research team, which details the discovery in the April edition of the peer-reviewed journal Tissue Engineering, is the first to grow human tissue - bone, muscle, cartilage and fat - using stem cells harvested from fat. The team obtained the fat using liposuction.

Previously, stem cells for tissue engineering research had been harvested from bone marrow, brain and fetal tissue, limited sources that pose a variety of logistical and ethical challenges. The availability of the plentiful source of stem cells will accelerate development of new procedures for repairing and replacing damaged, dead or missing tissue in people.

"Until now, we had not identified a good source of stem cells, which can be thought of as the building blocks of tissue engineering," said Dr. Marc Hedrick of the UCLA School of Medicine's Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the research team's primary investigator. "Fat is perhaps the ideal source. There's plenty of it. It's easy and inexpensive to obtain. It even has a secondary cosmetic benefit.

"Our findings show that fat is not the tissue we once thought. Just as the Industrial Revolution transformed oil from trash to treasure, our research shows that unwanted human fat actually is a vigorous tissue with a tremendous amount of potential for good."

The researchers said the discovery could render the controversial use of fetal tissue obsolete.

"We don't yet know the limits for stem cells found in fat. So far, we have seen promising results with all of the tissue types we have examined," said Dr. Adam J. Katz, a member of the research team from the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "This discovery potentially could obviate the need for using fetal tissue."

Immature and unspecified, stem cells are key contributors to the body's ability to renew and repair its own tissues. They are unique in their ability to mature into two or more different types of specific cells, depending on their environment. Researchers grow different tissues in the laboratory by manipulating stem cell environments.

"Stem cells are like little kids who, when they grow up, can enter a variety of professions," Hedrick said. "A child might become a fireman, a doctor or a plumber, depending on the influences in their life - or environment. In the same way, these stem cells can become many tissues by making certain changes in their environment."

Stem cells already are used as a treatment for leukemia and some joint repairs. With fat as a plentiful source of stem cells, researchers may be able to accelerate the pace of overcoming obstacles that prevent broader applications. These challenges include finding ways to supply blood to larger tissues, control growth and maturation, and eliminate scarring.

"We're just figuring out the best ways to apply this technology, but expect the first practical uses for laboratory-grown tissues to enter the medical marketplace within the next five years or so," Hedrick said. "We hope one day to be able to remove diseased tissue or organs, harvest stem cells and replace the lost tissues on the same day during the same operation. There is potential for regenerating a lot of different tissues, perhaps some day solid organs, glands, nerves or brain tissue."
-end-
The Wunderman Family Foundation provided primary funding for the research team. Other contributors include the Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative, the Plastic Surgery Education Foundation and American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

Patricia A. Zuk and Dr. Min Zhu of the UCLA School of Medicine co-authored the paper. Other researchers involved in the study were Dr. Hiroshi Mizuno, Jerry Huang, Dr. Prosper Benhaim and Dr. H. Peter Lorenz, all of UCLA; and Dr. J. William Futrell of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

Online Resources:

UCLA School of Medicine: (http://www.medsch.ucla.edu/)
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine: (http://www.dean-med.pitt.edu/)


University of California - Los Angeles

Related Stem Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.

More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.

First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.

Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.

The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.

New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.

NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.

Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.

Read More: Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.