For a while now, some plastic surgeons have been using stem cells to treat aging, sun-damaged skin. But while they’ve been getting good results, it’s been unclear exactly how these treatments – using adult stem cells harvested from the patient’s own body – work to rejuvenate “photoaged” facial skin.
A new microscopic-level study provides the answer: within a few weeks, stem cell treatment eliminates the sun-damaged elastin network and replacing them with normal, undamaged tissues and structures – even in the deeper layers of skin.
Injection of the patient’s own mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) is “appropriate, competent and sufficient to elicit the full structural regeneration of the sun-aged skin,” according to the report by Dr. Luis Charles-de-Sá, MD, of Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Natale Gontijo-Amorim, MD and Gino Rigotti, MD of Verone-Italy University and colleagues. Their study appears in the June issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery®, the official medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).
The researchers assessed the cellular- and molecular-level effects of MSC treatment on sun-damaged (photoaged) facial skin. All 20 patients in the study, average age 56 years, were scheduled for facelift surgery. The patients lived in northeast Brazil, a region where intense sun exposure is expected.
For each patient, a small sample of fat cells from the abdomen was processed to create patient-specific MSCs. The cultured stem cells were injected under the skin of the face,