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Keywords:

  • adipose-derived stem cells;
  • adipose tissue;
  • differentiation;
  • isolation;
  • mesenchymal stem cells

Abstract

The ideal stem cell for use in functional tissue engineering needs to be abundantly available, harvested with minimal morbidity, differentiated reliably down various pathways and able to be transplanted safely and efficaciously. Adult human adipose tissue contains a population of mesenchymal stem cells, termed ‘adipose-derived stem cells’ (ASC), which seem to fulfil most, if not all, of these criteria. ASC can be harvested readily, safely, and in relative abundance by modern liposuction techniques. They are capable of differentiating into other mesenchymal tissue types, including adipocytes, chondrocytes, myocytes and osteoblasts. They also show angiogenic properties, with recent evidence of a potential role in healing radiotherapy-damaged tissue, possibly due to their secretion of vascular endothelial growth factor. Similarly, they may have a role in healing chronic wounds, and as such are being investigated in phase 1 trials for their ability to aid healing of recurrent Crohn’s fistulae. Subsequently they have a wide range of potential clinical uses in all fields of surgery. This article reviews the current and potential clinical applications of ASC in relation to surgery, as well as methods for their isolation, differentiation and molecular characterization.