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HomeHealth articlesreconstructive operationsWhat Is the Role of Stem Cell Therapy in Reconstructive Surgery?

Stem Cell Therapy in Reconstructive Surgery

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4 min read


Stem cells are known for self-renewal and cellular differentiation. Read the article below to learn about their applications in reconstructive surgery.

Written by

Dr. Pallavi. C

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Jain Vicky Ghewarchand

Published At July 17, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 27, 2024

What Are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are undifferentiated biological cells that can self-renew and specialize into various cell types. They are crucial to the science of regenerative medicine, which aims to replace and repair damaged cells, tissues, and organs by grafting healthy ones in their place.

  • Adult Stem Cells: The United States Food and Drug Administration has only approved adult stem cells as a type of stem cell for use in medicine. Because adult stem cells can be found in newborns, children, and adults, the term 'adult stem cells' can be confusing. These cells can be found in the bone marrow, muscles, brain, intestines, and other tissues of our bodies. Adult stem cells are considered a little army of cells able to replenish and repair the muscle or tissue in which they are present.

  • Embryonic Stem Cells: Embryonic stem cells are much more versatile than adult stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are taken from an embryo in the blastocyst stage (approximately one week after an embryo has been created in a lab). These cells can develop into any form of cell. So they are called pluripotent cells. Because of these factors, the controversy surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells is something that most people identify with the subject.

What Is Stem Cell Therapy?

The use of stem cells to cure or prevent a condition or disease is called stem cell therapy. Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation is the only established stem cell therapy as of 2016. The procedure is in use for treating cancers and lymphomas. The same principles have been used in plastic surgery to regenerate and repair tissues.

Where Is Stem Cell Therapy Used In Plastic Surgery?

Stem cells are an exciting tool for improving cosmetic medicine and a viable therapeutic approach for treating tissue abnormalities, deformities, and disease. It is used in following procedures of plastic surgery.

  • Augmentation and Regeneration of Soft Tissue: Restoration and improvement of soft tissue, is necessary for long-term preservation of aesthetic outcomes. Biomaterials are one of the few available treatments right now. However, they come with risks like infection, fibrosis (formation of fibrous tissue) around them, and contracture. The creation and improvement of minimally invasive methods to transfer fat tissue have represented a significant advancement in regenerative surgical medicine. This enables the restoration of fat tissue using a patient's excess fat tissue in other body places. Many reconstructive operations, including breast reconstruction, are being transformed by this method. Notably, adult mesenchymal stem cells can be found in adipose tissue. Plastic surgeons discovered adipose-derived stem cells, which are simple to separate from fat tissue and show great potential for treating a wide range of conditions across the body.

  • Reconstruction of Breasts: Breast reconstruction is an essential component of cancer treatment for many patients. Plastic surgeons produce superior results by using decellularized cell scaffolds to create new cell layers above prostheses, such as implants in breast cancer survivors.

  • Wound Care: Tissue-engineered stem cell therapy strategies are heavily focused on complex wounds that are challenging to repair. These kinds of injuries are treated using artificial skin substitutes made of living cells generated in a lab. Growth factors are also being investigated for enhancing wound healing. Using negative pressure devices has been one of the most critical developments in repair and regeneration for wound healing. These gadgets, which a plastic surgeon developed, promote wound healing by applying micro-mechanical forces and negative pressure.

  • Scar Revision: The physiology of scar development and the biochemical signals that affect healing are fields of expertise for plastic surgeons. Regeneration treatments are being developed to enhance the healing of scars by employing energy-based tools like lasers and pulsed solid light.

  • Bone Regeneration: Patients with severe facial or limb damage may miss significant amounts of bone. Plastic surgeons use biomaterials made of bone and calcium-based scaffolds to create new bone for reconstructive procedures.

  • Cartilage Formation: Due to the tissue's poor inherent capacity for self-repair, cartilage lesions provide a difficult reconstructive dilemma. Currently, autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI), in which chondrocytes are collected from low-contact areas and enlarged in culture before being re-injected into a lesion. It is the only FDA (Food and Drug Association) approved cellular-based treatment for cartilage defects. Early clinical investigations using this method have yielded encouraging outcomes.

  • Burn Treatment: Protein scaffolds have been used for the first time by plastic surgeons to regenerate the dermal layer, or deepest layer of skin, after a burn injury.

  • Regeneration of Nerve: Plastic surgeons are pioneering new directions in regenerating nerves and preserving optimal function following nerve injury in the hand, upper extremity, and lower extremity surgery. These treatments employ specialized biomaterials that guide the formation of nerve fibers and unique growth factors to accelerate nerve mending.

  • Customized Tissue Flaps: For malformations involving complicated tissues, such as a significant portion of a nose, cosmetic surgeons are developing new replacement pieces at another point on the body. Early clinical tests using this procedure have yielded encouraging results. The structure is put together using tissue grafts in a 'flap prefabrication' procedure and then transplanted to the defect after healing.

What Factors Contribute to the Success of Stem Cells?

The following important factors must be taken into account:

  • The source of the stem cells.

  • The effectiveness of the transplant.

  • Engraftment in the living tissues.

  • Association with the local environment.

  • The long-term outcome of the transplanted cells.

Complete knowledge of cellular regenerative procedures is essential for the success of plastic surgery.


Understanding the biology of stem cells and the various ways stem cells can be used to treat clinical issues has advanced significantly in regenerative medicine over the past several years. Stem cells have been shown to help repair a range of deformities, including bone and soft tissue defects, in addition to non-healing wounds worsened by radiotherapy and ischemia. The area of cosmetic procedures is no different. Stem cell therapies have also demonstrated promising results in cosmetic surgeries, including skin rejuvenation and breast enlargement. Recent advances in stem cell therapy opened gates for successful regenerative procedures in plastic surgery.

Source Article IclonSourcesSource Article Arrow
Dr. Jain Vicky Ghewarchand
Dr. Jain Vicky Ghewarchand

plastic surgery-reconstructive and cosmetic surgery


reconstructive operationsstem cell therapy
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