Adipose Stem Cells: Fat or Cure?

Katelyn Won
4 min readAug 29

The Basics

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are cells that are typically derived from the embryonic stage of development of humans or any bilateral triploblast organisms. They are the Adam and Eve of cells such as adipocytes (fat cells), chondrocytes (cartilage cells), myocytes (muscle cells), and osteoblasts (bone cells), meaning that these cells, with the help of specific cytokine signaling pathways, can commit to a certain cell lineage and thus characterized as “multipotent”. Current researchers are focusing on harvest of these cells in order to reuse them for, for example, tissue engineering purposes that can possibly regenerate whole organs or treat burn victims. More attention is being brought upon adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs).

There are two types of adipose tissue: brown and white adipose tissue. As one matures, young brown adipose tissue is transformed into white adipose tissue, in which ASCs can be derived from. It is the less invasive source for harvesting stem cells such that they are accessible as tissue lies beneath the skin. Comparing this harvesting technique to bone marrow stem cell harvests, adipose stem cell derivation is more reliable in terms of imposing negative side effects as well as the harvested cells themselves having the ability to be viable in grafts and other cosmetic procedures. ASCs display similar surface protein markers as that of bone-marrow derived stem cells, but can proliferate faster in culture. They also have similar potentials for differentiation to other MSCs. Thus, they are worthy candidates for the emerging cell therapies of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Who knew the purpose of body fat isn’t just to store our body’s energy?


Harvest and Isolation

A common harvesting technique is also the most commonly performed procedure in cosmetic surgery: liposuction. The lipoaspirate can be harvested using the tumescent technique. By filtering through large volumes of Klein’s solution (comprised of small concentrations of lignocaine and epinephrine) into the patient’s body while simultaneously using suction cannulae, fat aspiration can be conducted without large blood loss and invasion of the skin (as only a small stab incision is made). The suction collects cells from the deep fat layer in a radially symmetric motion upon…

Katelyn Won

Hi there! I am a 17 year old biotechnology enthusiast from Southern California. Feel free to read my articles on emerging technologies, innovations, & much more