Body fat good source of stem cells, say doctors

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07:17 AM January 17th, 2013

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By: Philip C. Tubeza, January 17th, 2013 07:17 AM

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that the Department of Health would come out in the coming weeks with the rules to regulate stem cell therapy in the country. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Health buffs may abhor body fat but it is actually a good source for stem cells that can be used to help treat diseases ranging from athritis, diabetes, or even HIV/AIDS in the future, according to a stem cell expert.

Speaking at the first national convention of the Philippine Society for Stem Cell Medicine, Vasilis Paspaliaris, a stem cell expert from Greece, said body fat or adipose tissues have been proven to be rich sources of mesenchyme stem cells, used for regenerative medicine.

“Why fat? What’s the interest in fat? There’s a lot more mesenchyme stem cells in adipose tissue,” Paspaliaris said during the convention at the Manila Hotel.

“Many of you cosmetic surgeons know that fat has been used as a filler for breast enhancements. Everyone knew there was a therapeutic use for fat. And plastic surgeons were quite aware of it. They have seen its rejuvenative effects,” he added.

He said that while mesenchyme tissues could also be found in the skin and the kidneys, “there is 10,000 times more mesancyme stem cells in adipose tissue.”

“And what is a big deal in adipose tissue is that (it’s) easily accessible with a minimal invasive procedure. More importantly, we can take a little amount of fat and we already have enough numbers of cells that we can take back straight to our patients,” he added.

However, Paspaliaris said that the fat person would not necessarily have more mesenchyme stem cells than someone thinner.

“The bigger you are does not mean that you have more stem cells. It just means you have more lipids (or stored energy),” he added.

Dr. Rey Melchor Santos, president of the Philippine Society for Stem Cell Medicine, said stem cells from human embryos or aborted fetuses should not be used.

“(The use of stem cells) coming from human embryos or fetuses will not be adhered to because it is unethical and associated with a lot of problems,” Santos said.

He also urged the public to be wary of beauty parlors and spas that have been offering stem cell therapies without the guidance of licensed physicians.

Health Secretary Enrique Ona said that the Department of Health would come out in the coming weeks with the rules to regulate stem cell therapy in the country.

“Today, we see the proliferation of `centers’ offering stem cell treatments for medical and aesthetic purposes. Some stem cell programs here have expert personnel and clinical facilities and advanced laboratory equipment and technologies, reputed to be more advanced than other institutions abroad,” Ona said.

“We are concerned, however, that other facilities might not have the minimum capabilities needed to perform stem cell therapies safely and effectively,” he added.

While cell therapy holds promise, it is not yet part of standard of care and is considered an “investigative procedure for compassionate use,” according to Ona.

“Applications of stem cells for the treatment of malignancies, blood disorders, degenerative diseases (e.g., Alzheimer’s Disease), metabolic diseases (e.g., diabetes), and immune cell therapy are still under clinical evaluation and study,” Ona said.

“The public must avoid receiving cell preparations that are being offered in the Philippines and elsewhere, such as embryonic, aborted fetal, genetically altered and animal stem cells,” he added.

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