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Stem Cell Facelift Continues to Rear Its Ugly Head

By Edward Lack
Published Sun May 01, 2011 in Blogs » Health,Beauty and Politics

The Stem Cell hype just won't go away. I don't know if this is Western culture or United States culture, but the continuous promotion of tenuous concepts for commercial gain is downright boring if not pathetic. While relatively few physicians spend their time evangelizing specious concepts for their own gain, a few individuals tweak the monetary imaginations enough to produce headlines and patient queries.
How many times must we say, "The emperor is wearing no clothes?" How many times do we have to listen to the cacophony (notice the root word phony in cacophony) of a Donald Trump or a Sara Palin before rational people call them to task and stop the insanity?
No one questions that stem cells exist. No one questions that they are pleuri-potential cells capable of regenerating virtually every cell in the body. No one questions the usefulness they might have in fighting disease like heart injuries, spinal cord injuries, perhaps even cancer. However, the time is not now. Stem cells are a subject of research and development, and entrepreneurs who claim to make machines that remove stem cells from tissue have no more idea of how to use them in a way that satisfies the rigors of evidence based medicine than I do of applying quantum physics. It may be fun to read. I ain't going anywhere with it.
And so I was disconcerted to see the cover of Surge magazine, a publication of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery, title the lead article "Stem Cells, Where are we headed in 2011?" To their credit there is plenty of caution in the article such as "Others (physicians) have made claims that they've used stem cells to fortify fat for facial grafting as well as other areas"; and "The FDA … will likely be looking at the way doctors conduct their handling of adipose-derived stem cells"; and "Nonetheless, it will all happen in a clinic near you if not in your own office".
I do, however, question the effect of the article in an age of instant messaging as codifying the validity of advertisements promoting stem cell face lifts and stem cell breast augmentation. Injecting fat into breasts and face has changed little in the past 20 years and adding stem cells is similar to arguing whether adding salt to (already salted) chicken soup makes it better.
As the promotions continue and medical societies are intimidated into validating the possibilities of unproven claims the only admonition that seems appropriate is “buyer beware”.
Edward Lack


Edward Lack MD is a board certified dermatologist and a board certified dermatologic cosmetic surgeon. He is President and Medical Director of MetropolitanMD, a multispecialty cosmetic surgery center in Chicago,which is unique in having a double board certified cosmetic dermatologic surgeon, a double board certified facial plastic surgeon, and a double board certified cosmetic plastic surgeon. Dr. Lack is also the Past President of The American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery.
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