Stem cell facial fat transfer has transformed how plastic surgeons approach facial rejuvenation. In the past, doctors focused on pulling and tightening the loose skin and other soft tissues with no or very little regard to age-induced soft tissue shrinkage.
The caveat of a facelift-alone approach is its tendency to aggravate facial volume loss as it entails lifting and bringing the soft tissue closer to the bone. Before fat transfer has become a well-established procedure, surgeons resorted to dermal fillers and facial implants.
Compared to other facial “volumizers,” fat transfer is perceived to provide superior results because it uses the most natural material: the patient’s own fat.
Prominent Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Tarick Smiley says that fat is naturally abundant with stem cells, which are dynamic cells that can transform themselves into other cell types (fat, skin, muscle, etc.). Doctors first noticed their remarkable healing effects when injected into non-healing wounds.
In his recent Snapchat post, Dr. Smiley has explained how stem cell-rich fats are collected.
Dr. Smiley often collects donor fats from the tummy. In small recipient areas such as the face, only a few teaspoons of purified fat are needed to restore the lost volume.
Purification is done with a use of centrifuge, a device that separates red blood cells, fat cells, and stem cells based on their weight. Being the heaviest biomaterial, the red blood cells settle to the bottom of the tube and are drained out.
Fat cells, being the lightest material, float to the surface. Meanwhile, right below them is a relatively thin layer that plays a critical role in facial rejuvenation surgery: the stem cells.
The fat cells and stem cells are injected into multiple layers to ensure high survival rate of fat grafts (70 percent or more). The injection technique called “microdroplet” ensures that the grafts occupy larger surface area in order to promote better blood vessel ingrowth.
“Without blood vessel ingrowth, the body will just absorb the fats. We don’t want this as our goal is to achieve near permanent results,” says Dr. Smiley.
A properly executed stem cell facial fat transfer, says Dr. Smiley, can last between seven and 12 years, depending on the person’s “pace of aging.”
Because the fat grafts “behave” like the local fat and other adjacent tissues, they feel natural. Cheek implants, meanwhile, may only appear natural in the first few years but has the tendency to look “done” as the soft tissue continues to experience atrophy or shrinkage.