Globs of fat removed during liposuction could be used to create stem cells, according to a new study.
Researchers at Stanford University said that fat cells are more easily coaxed to become pluripotent stem cells than skin cells, the cells most often used by stem cell researchers.
"We've identified a great natural resource," said Dr. Michael Longaker, a Stanford professor of surgery and co-author of the research. He called the lipsocution leftovers "liquid gold."
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Reprogramming adult cells to function like embryonic stem cells is one way researchers hope to create patient-specific cell lines to regenenerate tissue or to study specific diseases in the laboratory.
The cells found in human fat can be reprogram much more efficientely than skin cells, which must be grown in the lab for three weeks or more before they can be reprogrammed.
Experts say that one possible application of this research would be isolating fat cells from a patient with congential cardiac disease, then differentiating them into cardiac cells and studying how they respond to different drugs to see how they compare to normal cells.
The findings were released today in the proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.