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Fat cells heal skull defects in mice, Stanford research shows

STANFORD, Calif. - Certain types of cells from fat tissue can repair skull defects in mice, say researchers at Stanford University Medical Center. Because this type of healing process does not depend on the use of embryonic stem cells or gene therapy, it may one day allow doctors to use a patient's own unmodified cells as building blocks to heal fractures, replace joints, treat osteoporosis or correct defects in bone growth or healing.

"These cells are from you, for you and by you," said Lucile Packard Children's Hospital pediatric craniofacial surgeon Michael Longaker, MD. "They are not foreign and they don't express foreign genes. To our knowledge, this is the first time these cells have ever been shown to have a therapeutic effect." Longaker, a professor of surgery at Stanford's School of Medicine, is the senior author of the research, published in the May issue of Nature Biotechnology.

"Fat is a great natural resource," he added. "These cells are not only easily harvested, they grow quickly in the laboratory." In contrast, bone marrow cells and bone cells, both of which can also repair skull damage, grow very slowly outside of the body.

Longaker and his colleagues have spent several years investigating the special qualities of the fat-derived cells, which are isolated from fat pockets under the skin of juvenile or adult animals. They've found that the cells, also known as multipotent cells, can be coaxed in the laboratory to express the genes and characteristics of many other tissue types, including bone, cartilage and muscle cells. But it was not known if these cells are equally versatile within the body.

In the study, researchers implanted the cells, seeded on a bonelike scaffolding, into defects that would not otherwise heal in the skulls of mice. They assessed new bone formation after two and 12 weeks, finding that the fat-derived cells were just as effective as the more finicky bone marrow cells at synthesizing ne
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Contact: Robert Dicks
rdicks@stanfordmed.org
650-497-8364
Stanford University Medical Center
4-May-2004


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