Fat May Heal And Help Save Lives

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

September 12, 2005

Embryonic stem-cell research is one of the most controversial issues of the Bush Administration, but at UVa, researchers may have discovered new alternatives.

It turns out that pesky spare tire around your waste may actually do some good.

"Fat is good...because we now can use it by transforming it into therapeutic products and services," said Plastic Surgeon Ramon Llull.

The University of Virginia found that fat tissue contain stem cells which have regenerative capabilities and could eventually be used to treat injured or damaged tissue.

"A person has a stroke and one population of cells has died in the brain and we think we can inject these cells either into the blood system or possibly directly into the brain and they will travel to the area and replace it," said Dr. Roy Ogle UVa Professor and Researcher.

Researchers are currently growing bones, muscle, cartilage, and nerves, among other things.

"I study how blood vessels grow. In our model systems, they were able--when injected into an animal modelthey were able--to increase the number of new blood vessels that formed in that tissue," said Shayn Peirce-Cottler UVa researcher.

Researchers say they hope to eventually be able to re-grow organs such as the liver or heart. It is still in the research phase, but experts hope that some form of the treatment will go into practice in the next four years.

UVa is one of the top five institutes in the country doing this research.

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