Liposuction leftovers make easy stem cells: study

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fat sucked out of chunky thighs or flabby bellies might provide an easy source of stem cells made using new and promising technology, U.S. researchers reported on Tuesday.

They found immature fat cells in the material removed during liposuction were easy to transform into cells called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells.

They were easier to work with than the skin cells usually used to make iPS cells, the team at Stanford University’s School of Medicine in California reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

IPS cells are made using genes that take them back in time to a more immature and pliable state. They can then be re-directed to form heart cells, bone cells, brain cells or any other type of desired cell.

“These cells are not as far along on the differentiation pathway, so they’re easier to back up to an earlier state,” Ning Sun, who led the study, said in a statement.

“They are more embryonic-like than fibroblasts, which take more effort to reprogram.”

Stem cells are the body’s master cell and embryonic stem cells are the most malleable, morphing into any cell type. IPS cells look very much the same, and teams are trying to make stocks of these cells to use in research and, eventually, to treat disease.

“Not only can we start with a lot of cells, we can reprogram them much more efficiently,” said Dr. Joseph Wu, who worked on the study.

“Fibroblasts, or skin cells, must be grown in the lab for three weeks or more before they can be reprogrammed. But these stem cells from fat are ready to go right away.”

Editing by Phil Stewart