International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science 2016 Conference Highlights
by Neil Thompson
Fat to the face: My time at IFATS 2016
Why would you want to put fat in your face?
That’s the question I asked myself before attending the International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science (IFATS) 2016 annual meeting. I don’t know too much about fat except that most of us would rather have less of it. Held from November 17-20, clinicians, researchers, and industry folk all gathered in San Diego at the Westin San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. I was among them, and I was excited to be there.
For decades, most cosmetic surgeries were carried out with non-biological fillers. Plump up your face? Eliminate dimples on your thigh? Fillers fit the bill. The problem with them? They don’t stick around. Up to 60% of volume is lost with these types of fillers. Fat became the solution. In fat, more and more study has focused on using fat from liposuction to address filling those problem areas. The fatty material removed from the body during liposuction, called lipoaspirate, was historically seen as waste and thrown away. No more. Surgeons are now separating the fat tissue from lipoaspirate through various means, like centrifugation and simple decanting, to access the stem cells residing in the tissue. Stem cells have the ability to transform, given the correct cues, into fat cells. The stem cells can then be reinjected into problem areas so that the stem cells attract cytokines that turn the stem cells into fat cells.
Many companies, some of which were exhibitors at the meeting, are working on methods to better separate the fat tissue from lipoaspirate while increasing the yield and viability of the isolated stem cells. Results are promising. Companies like Tissue Genesis and LifeCell are developing these fat-isolating technologies. LifeCell in particular has launched a product, the REVOLVE™ System, which looks like a salad spinner. It operates by gently spinning around lipoaspirate to separate the fat tissue from blood cells, debris, and extraneous fluid. The entire process takes about 90 minutes and produces more viable stem cells than decanting alone. Another company, Andrews Technologies, showcased HydraSolve®, which uses a specially made cannula to liquefy fat with warm pressurized saline. Fat sucked into the cannula comes in contact with warm saline circulating within the cannula, which liquefies the fat. The cell viability within the aspirated fat is higher than in other traditional fat harvesting techniques.
Want to avoid liposuction and only want to fix a tiny problem area? MTF has a product, Renuva™, which can do just that. Made of allograft fat tissue (i.e. other people’s fat), Renuva is an injectable off the shelf product, eliminating the need for fat harvesting by liposuction. A competitor product, Allofill™ by Biologica Technologies, also exhibited at the meeting.
In addition to companies showing their wares, researchers also presented their work. Ever heard of microneedling? Me neither. The microneedler looks like a small rolling pin with tiny needles protruding from it. Researchers from Turkey’s Koc University School of Medicine found that rolling the microneedler over the problem area prior to fat injection increased vascularity and led to quicker engraftment of the injected fat. Oxysterol was a new term for me, too. A derivative of cholesterol, researchers at UCLA showed a link between oxysterol treatment and decrease in weight. They are looking into developing oxysterol treatments to prevent obesity. Research out of the University of Louisville is experimenting with developing cell-encapsulating spheroids. The team is 3D printing hydrophilic dots onto hydrophobic surfaces to create the spheroids. A 3D morphology of the cell-binding surface has been shown to be quite influential in maintaining the in vivo characteristics of cells. Cells plated on a flat surface typically don’t behave like cells found in the body.
The major takeaway from the meeting is that there’s no gold standard for isolating fat from lipoaspirate. Some swear by liposuction followed by allowing the fat layer to separate from the blood cell-laden liquid. Others advocate for gently spinning or centrifuging the lipoaspirate. In the next few years, I suspect more study will reveal the optimal method to get at the fat tissue’s stem cells and that method will be widely adopted. Barring prohibitive costs, of course.
So why would you want to put fat in your face? Because it works! Besides, we put Botox in our faces. Why not add some fat to the mix?