Adipose-Derived Stem Cells in Aesthetic Surgery: A Mixed Methods Evaluation of the Current Clinical Trial, Intellectual Property, and Regulatory Landscape

Aesthet Surg J. 2018 Feb 17;38(2):199-210. doi: 10.1093/asj/sjx093.


Background: Adipose tissue, which can be readily harvested via a number of liposuction techniques, offers an easily accessible and abundant source of adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs). Consequently, ASCs have become an increasingly popular reconstructive option and a novel means of aesthetic soft tissue augmentation.

Objectives: This paper examines recent advances in the aesthetic surgery field, extending beyond traditional review formats to incorporate a comprehensive analysis of current clinical trials, adoption status, and the commercialization pathway.

Methods: Keyword searches were carried out on clinical trial databases to search for trials using ASCs for aesthetic indications. An intellectual property landscape was created using commercial software (Thomson Reuters Thomson Innovation, New York, NY). Analysis of who is claiming what in respect of ASC use in aesthetic surgery for commercial purposes was analyzed by reviewing the patent landscape in relation to these techniques. Key international regulatory guidelines were also summarized.

Results: Completed clinical trials lacked robust controls, employed small sample sizes, and lacked long-term follow-up data. Ongoing clinical trials still do not address such issues. In recent years, claims to intellectual property ownership have increased in the "aesthetic stem cell" domain, reflecting commercial interest in the area. However, significant translational barriers remain including regulatory challenges and ethical considerations.

Conclusions: Further rigorous randomized controlled trials are required to delineate long-term clinical efficacy and safety. Providers should consider the introduction of patient reported outcome metrics to facilitate clinical adoption. Robust regulatory and ethical policies concerning stem cells and aesthetic surgery should be devised to discourage further growth of "stem cell tourism."

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / cytology*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Property*
  • Lipectomy
  • Male
  • Medical Tourism / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Medical Tourism / statistics & numerical data
  • Medical Tourism / trends*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation / adverse effects
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation / methods
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Surgery, Plastic / adverse effects
  • Surgery, Plastic / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Surgery, Plastic / methods
  • Surgery, Plastic / statistics & numerical data
  • Young Adult