The role of stem cells in aesthetic surgery: fact or fiction?

Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014 Aug;134(2):193-200. doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000000404.


Background: Stem cells are attractive candidates for the development of novel therapies, targeting indications that involve functional restoration of defective tissue. Although most stem cell therapies are new and highly experimental, there are clinics around the world that exploit vulnerable patients with the hope of offering supposed stem cell therapies, many of which operate without credible scientific merit, oversight, or other patient protection.

Methods: The authors review the potential and the drawbacks of incorporation of stem cells in cosmetic procedures. A review of U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved indications and ongoing clinical trials with adipose stem cells is provided. Furthermore, a "snapshot" analysis of Web sites using the search terms "stem cell therapy" or "stem cell treatment" or "stem cell facelift" was performed.

Results: Despite the protective net cast by regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and professional societies such as the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the authors are witnessing worrying advertisements for procedures such as stem cell face lifts, stem cell breast augmentations, and even stem cell vaginal rejuvenation. The marketing and promotion of stem cell procedures in aesthetic surgery is not adequately supported by clinical evidence in the majority of cases.

Conclusions: Stem cells offer tremendous potential, but the marketplace is saturated with unsubstantiated and sometimes fraudulent claims that may place patients at risk. With plastic surgeons at the forefront of stem cell-based regenerative medicine, it is critically important that they provide an example of a rigorous approach to research, data collection, and advertising of stem cell therapies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Cosmetic Techniques* / economics
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Marketing
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Rejuvenation
  • Stem Cell Transplantation* / economics
  • Stem Cell Transplantation* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration