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Plastic Surgery Societies Reach Decision on Stem Cell Claims

ASAPS and ASPS say that stem cells have promising potential, but marketing should reflect real data, which shows limited efficacy.

A decision has been reached about stem cells in cosmetic surgery, from a special task force assigned by members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.

At the 2011 Aesthetic Meeting in Boston, surgeons presented a systematic review of the medical literature, which concludes that stem cells do have “tremendous potential” in aesthetic surgery, but the data (on safety and efficacy) is limited. Therefore, marketing claims about cosmetic stem cell therapies should be reigned in.

“There are encouraging data from laboratory and clinical studies to suggest that the use of adult stem cells is a very promising field,” said J. Peter Rubin M.D., “but as our comprehensive review of the current scientific literature shows, the data available today do not substantiate the marketing claims being made to patients seeking aesthetic surgery and aesthetic medical treatments.”

Findings and recommendations from the task force include the following:

  • Terms like “stem cell therapy” should only describe treatments that use stem cells for a specific purpose, not for treatments (like fat grafting) that happen to incorporate stem cells in their technique.
  • Marketing for stem cell therapies in cosmetic surgery is not currently supported by adequate clinical evidence.
  • Further research is encouraged, so more data can be collected on the benefits of stem cell applications in plastic surgery.
  • Any stem cell based procedure should be performed in compliance with FDA regulation.
  • Patients should exercise “extreme caution” when they encounter any physician who is promising results that sound “too good to be true.”

Felmont F. Eaves III, MD, ASAPS President, explains: “While we remain enthusiastic about the future potential of stem cell therapies in aesthetic surgical procedures, unsubstantiated claims for such therapies will harm patients and tarnish the reputation of the industry,” [but] “this joint position statement will provide guidance for our members, the public and the media.”

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