In response to growing media coverage and marketing claims surrounding so-called “stem cell therapies,” the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) have created a joint task force on the use of stem cells in aesthetic surgery, led by J. Peter Rubin, MD. The task force enlisted the help of researchers at the University of Pittsburgh McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine to review more than 2,000 published papers on the use of stem cells in plastic surgery. The researchers have concluded that, thus far, less than 20 of the published papers offer valid evidence of stem cell efficacy in aesthetic surgery-related indications.
Based on these findings and current knowledge of stem cell applications, the joint task force presented the following recommendations for physicians at the Annual Meeting of the ASAPS in Boston on May 9, 2011.
• Terms such as “stem cell therapy” or “stem cell procedure” should be reserved to describe those treatments or techniques where the collection, concentration, manipulation and therapeutic action of the stem cells is the primary goal, rather than a passive result, of the treatment. For example, standard fat grafting procedures that do transfer some stem cells naturally present within the tissue should be described as fat grafting procedures, not stem cell procedures.
• The marketing and promotion of stem cell procedures in aesthetic surgery is not adequately supported by clinical evidence at this time.
• While stem cell therapies have the potential to be beneficial for a variety of medical applications, a substantial body of clinical data to assess plastic surgery application still needs to be collected. Until further evidence is available, stem cell therapies in aesthetic and reconstructive surgery should be conducted within clinical studies under Institutional Review Board approval, including compliance with all guidelines for human medical studies.
• The collection and reporting of data on outcomes and safety by any physician performing stem cells therapies is strongly encouraged in order to advance the knowledge and science of stem cells.
• Stem cell-based procedures should be performed in compliance with FDA regulatory guidelines. If devices are employed that are subject to regulation by the FDA, surgeons should use these devices with appropriate approval in place, especially when used for investigational purposes.
• Patients are advised to seek consultation for aesthetic procedures by a surgeon certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery. These physicians are able to properly evaluate a patient’s concerns and offer a wide range of safe solutions. Extreme caution should be exercised when a physician is promising results from any treatment that sound too good to be true.
“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,” said ASAPS President Felmont F. Eavess III, MD.
–Inga Hansen, executive editor