The traditional face lift involves (1) lifting the skin up after incision and allowing pulling and tightening of the underlying tissues, (2) pulling the skin and cutting the excess skin before draping it back in position and closing the incision lines.
But if a patient suffers loss of volume in the face due to aging or weight loss, the traditional face lift cannot add volume. Putting back volume in the face is necessary for gaining a youthful appearance and so, traditional procedure is not good enough for everybody.
To get over the problem, the procedures using synthetic fillers or body fat came into practice to give the face a fuller look. But the problem was that both synthetic fillers and body fat got reduced in volume and absorbed in or excreted from the body over some period of time. So, the patients very happy initially with the fuller faces, became upset with subsequent volume loss and vigorously complained about the procedure and against the surgeons.
Synthetic implants over the cheek bone and in the cheek have also been used to add volume; but these required bigger incisions, greater surgical skill and dependence on the quality of the implants used.
Thus, the situation called for finding new ways to add volume to the face and consequently some of the pioneering cosmetic surgeons introduced face lift procedure using stem cells.
What are the stem cells? Stem cells are those cells in an organism which can divide and differentiate into different specialised cells and can also produce more stem cells. There are two types – Embryonic stem cells which occur in human embryo, can differentiate into any cell type of the organs and tissues in the body; Adult stem cells occur in most adult tissues and can produce new cells for the tissues in which they occur. But later research indicates that adult stem cell which are found in the adipose (fat) tissue may be used to produce cell of other tissues also.
There are some moral issues relating to the use embryonic stem cells and their use is now prohibited in many countries. But the adult stem cell from fat does not have any restriction for medical use.
The stem cell face lift procedure takes out body fat, enriches a portion of the fat with stem cells by adding stem cells from the other portion and injects the stem cell enriched fat in the face to build up lost volume.
The earlier instances of using fat (which contains some stem cells in any case) in face lift but without stem cell enrichment was not found very successful.
The surgeons say that the fat enriched in stem cell, when injected in the face not only provides fullness of the face but also continues to improve and repair the facial skin for a very long period possibly for life time. As a result wrinkling in the skin is much less and skin tone is improved in the long run.
The procedure – The fat is removed from a body part with excess fat like the abdomen by liposuction technique. The fat is then enriched with stem cell.
The enrichment is done by several cosmetic surgeons mechanically by using a centrifuge machine (Coleman technique named after Dr Sydney Coleman of New York) which produces different layers of fat including one that is rich in stem cell.
The enriched fat is then injected in the face in a controlled manner which requires skilled surgeons experienced in this procedure.
The procedure costs in the range $ 5,000 to $ 10,000 and requires several days of down time due to bruising, pain and swelling from liposuction and fat injection.
It is reported that some of the patients who received this new procedure are highly satisfied with the results.