Regenerative medicine has become more popular in many fields of medicine, including orthopedic surgery, neurology, and endocrinology. Regenerative medicine is a process of replacing, repairing, or regenerating human cells, tissues, or organs by utilizing the body’s own self-healing ability. Plastic surgeons and facial plastic surgeons are using similar regenerative medicine techniques for anti-aging in cosmetic facial procedures.
What is regenerative medicine?
Regenerative medicine broadly involves three areas:
- stem cells
- growth factors
- platelet rich plasma or platelet rich fibrin matrix
Stems cells are cells that have the potential to differentiate into other cells and may exert an effect on surrounding tissue. Adult stem cells are primarily found in the bone marrow, blood, and fat. Stems cells are naturally present in fat transfer procedures and may have a cosmetic benefit to the area treated. For example during facial fat transfer, skin may appear smoother with less wrinkles beyond the volume enhancement from the fat injection alone to the cheeks. The specific mechanism of the “stem cell facelift” remains poorly understood.
Growth factors are also naturally occurring substances, such as proteins, that are involved with communication and proliferation of various cells types. Growth factors can enhance the production of collagen. Various growth factors have been used in cosmetic surgery to try to enhance facial fat injections. However, growth factors alone have not yet been shown to be beneficial compared to fat injections without added growth factors.
What is PRP?
Platelet rich plasma (PRP) or platelet rich fibrin matrix (PRFM) is fluid from blood that is enriched with platelets and/or fibrin that release growth factors for tissue healing. PRP is produced by obtaining a small amount of blood from the arm, which is then immediately processed to concentrate the existing platelets and plasma from the rest of the blood.
PRP and PRFM have the most potential for cosmetic facial procedures, either alone (“vampire lift”) or combined with other established procedures such as Botox, facial fillers, fat transfer, laser treatments, and skin resurfacing. As with all regenerative medicine in cosmetic surgery, the use of PRP and PRFM in a plastic surgery practice is still relatively new and further research is required.
Regenerative medicine procedures are considered safe, but have not yet been definitively proven to be clinically effective for cosmetic benefit. In future blog posts, we’ll explore regenerative cosmetic surgery further. Share your thoughts below.