The stem cell byproducts of liposuction could pave the way for medical innovations.

There may be another upside to liposuction that goes far beyond aesthetics. Research published in the journal PLOS ONE shows that a recently discovered cell population with life-saving potential can be found in fat removed during this simple cosmetic surgery.

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology have isolated a new group of pluripotent stem cells, or cells that have the ability to differentiate into many other types of cells within the body. Their transformative properties makes them ripe for scientific testing.

These Multi-lineage Stress-Enduring (Muse-AT) stem cells found in adipose, or fat tissue, can be gathered fairly easily from procedures such as liposuction and then utilized for a number of other purposes.

“We have been able to isolate these cells using a simple and efficient method that takes about six hours from the time the fat tissue is harvested,” said study senior author Dr. Gregorio Chazenbalk in a press release. “This research offers a new and exciting source of fat stem cells with pluripotent characteristics, as well as a new method for quickly isolating them. These cells also appear to be more primitive than the average fat stem cells, making them potentially superior sources for regenerative medicine.”

The most common types of pluripotent cells are embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells, or cells that have been artificially manipulated to function like embryonic stem cells. However, these cells can be dangerously unstable, with a tendency to differentiate and multiply uncontrollably to form teratomas, or tumors.

While additional research must be done to ensure that the Muse-AT cells will not lead to teratomas, the original research on the cells performed at Tokohu University in Japan did not find teratomas in animal models.

Muse-AT cells are exceptionally resilient and have the ability to withstand severe stress. In fact, these cells seem to thrive on extremity. The cells in the study were extracted from fat tissue during liposuction procedures, which would normally put a strain on the cells. In fact, Muse-AT cells come to life when exposed to these harsh conditions.

“Our in vitro studies indicate that Muse-AT lies dormant in the fat tissue until it is subjected to very harsh conditions. These cells can survive in conditions in which usually only cancer cells can live,” Chazenbalk said.

And a procedure like liposuction is an ideal catalyst for mending tissue. “Muse cells can be activated and migrate to areas of tissue injury or cellular to repair damage tissue,” he continued.

Muse-AT cells can be found in every human’s fat tissue, but the question remains whether the amount of these cells varies with a person’s age, sex, or race.

Stem cell research is a medical frontier that has yet to be fully explored, but the seemingly endless possibilities are sparking a growing interest.

“Muse-AT cells, upon further investigation and clinical trials, could prove a revolutionary treatment option for numerous diseases, including heart disease, stroke, and for tissue damage and neural regeneration by providing a source of cells that would replenish the damaged areas,” Chazenbalk said.

Muse-AT cells could be the answer to many medical quandaries, and the fact that they can be harvested during common surgical procedures may make their use more widespread.

“Muse-AT cells could be used as sources of cells at various developmental stages for research as well as for drug screening tests,” Chazenbalk said. “The use of Muse-AT cells for treatment of neurological and immune disorders is uncertain and many studies in different animal models are necessary to address such important questions.”