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Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found a way to turn ordinary fat cells into cartilage cells. Farshid Guilak is director of orthopedic research and senior member of the research team. He says he took what are called undifferentiated stem cells, or cells that have not yet been assigned a task by the body, and gave them the information they needed to become cartilage cells. Guilak says the procedure could be extremely beneficial.
“We envision being able to take a set of cells from the patient, manipulating them outside the body to grow a replacement piece of cartilage or to produce cells that can form cartilage and then placing them back into the injured site where they can help repair or regenerate the cartilage that’s been damaged due to a sports injury or a car accident, for example.”
Guilak says there are also possibilities that the procedure could be used to grow specialized fat cells that would help in plastic or reconstructive surgery following a mastectomy. It will still be three to five years before the procedure could be available to the general public. I’m Tom Britt.
Guilak says being able to use such easily obtainable material as fat cells could benefit many patients and improve many treatments.
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“There are possibilities for reconstructive and plastic surgery, for example if we can form a controlled amount of fat for mastectomy patients. The other possibilities are to form other tissues that are of the same origin and we have some preliminary evidence that that can be done. Tissues such as tendons and ligaments or muscle which would also be used for repairing injuries.”