Fat That Might Be Good For Us

Jalees Rehman discusses the implications of human fat cells being used to repair or regenerate damaged organs and tissues:

The discovery of regenerative cells within our fat has opened up new doors. As adult stem cells, they can be converted into tissues such as bone and cartilage and might provide long-sought relief for debilitating diseases such as chronic joint pain. As stromal cells, they are able to build and regenerate blood vessels, and could provide relief for millions of patients affected by poor blood flow to their vital organs. With scientists starting to engineer organs such as the heart, lungs, pancreas and liver from scratch, they are realising that ensuring blood supply to newly engineered organs is critical. The ability of cells derived from fat to grow blood vessels might make them central players in the future of organ engineering.

Discovering the regenerative power of human fat also begs a bigger question: how much more therapeutic potential resides within our bodies, just waiting to be discovered by scientists of the future? Stem cell research and regenerative medicine are providing humankind with an unprecedented array of opportunities to realise the age-old human quest for rejuvenation and longevity. But just like our predecessors – those physicians of centuries past who rubbed patients’ limbs with the fat of the dead – we can be seduced by false hopes and hypes. Stem cell biology has had more than its share of setbacks, often because it inspires dreams and promises that outpace the capacity of the science. Yet, propelled by those dreams and gigantic aspirations, we should be able to overcome obstacles, turn our back on false science, and engineer the transformative medicine to come.