Dr. Keith March and his team of researchers at the IU School of Medicine are finding a possible lifesaver, from a most surprising source: Fat. “It just happens that the cells that are found in many places in the body that have repair functions… Also happen to be found in fat, and that, of course, is a place that we are largely willing and able to get rid of extra abundance of.”
Researchers are actually finding those repairing cells, called stem cells, in human fat tissue taken from liposuctions.
Scientists also plan to harvest fat from a special herd of pigs Prone to obesity.
One of the biggest possibilities that stem cells from fat form into blood vessels, and repair blood flow to parts of the body not receiving it, such as the heart and legs.
The list of possible benefits is quite fascinating. Researchers are in the lab right now trying to figure out if the stem cells derived from fat could help those with spinal cord injuries.
It’s hopeful news for Michael Hunt whose 12-year-old daughter Emily lives with a spinal cord injury, an injury similar to that of actor Christopher Reeve. Reeve passed away recently and supported embryonic stem cell research.
Dr. March’s work avoids that controversy and he says is a faster path to clinical trials. “And boy, if you could get ’em out of your own fat, wouldn’t that be the greatest way to solve human problems.. Is take cells from your own body, change them to what you need and solve the problem. That’s really the best way to do it.”
Researchers say they could know more about the potential to repair damaged nerve tissue in the spine within the next year. They’re also hopeful that by next year, human clinical trials can begin in which fat is taken out and re-implanted to see if it improves blood flow to the legs.