At the New Zealand Stem Cell Clinic, patient safety is of paramount importance. However, Autologous Adipose Derived Stem Cell treatment is a medical procedure, and as such does carry with it certain generalised issues, risks, and safety concerns that must always be considered as with any medical or surgical procedure. For the purposes of this website, these general issues will not be discussed, but obviously should be discussed, and understood, when consulting a doctor who is competent and knowledgeable in the field of regenerative medicine and the treatment procedures involved in Autologous Adipose Derived Stem Cells.
It also needs to be considered that different clinics around the world may use slightly or even widely different methods. All that is discussed on this website is what we do and believe at the New Zealand Stem Cell Clinic.
The following information is based on: principles, practice, personal
views and opinions of Dr Robert Beulink and the New Zealand Stem Cell
Clinic; Dr Beulink's past history, clinical experience and development involving
Adipose Derived Stem Cells and closely related issues; and current
medical research and information relating to this subject.
What will be discussed here, are the safety aspects that specifically relate to Autologous Adipose Derived Stem Cells.
As mentioned previously in this website, ethical, moral, and safety concerns relating to embryonic, donor or other sourced stem cells, are not relevant to our treatment and will not be discussed.
Autologous Adipose Derived Stem Cell treatment, performed at the New Zealand Stem Cell Clinic, is inherently SAFE.
Our policies, treatment protocols and treatment procedures, follow the most important of ethical medical rules: DO NO HARM.
Dr Beulink, who performs the treatments, is a fully qualified, trained, and registered New Zealand doctor. He trained at the University of Otago Medical School, gaining his medical degree, MBChB, in 1986. Following this, he spent several years in New Zealand hospitals, and then went on to do private general medicine for 8 years. During this time in the 90's, he was also instrumental in developing the concept of Appearance and Cosmetic Medicine and Surgery, and introduced to New Zealand many of the treatments now considered as standard or common place in this field of medicine. In 1998, Dr Beulink became New Zealand's first full-time Cosmetic Physician.
Of key importance to the development and safety of Adipose Derived Stem Cell Treatments:
- In 1999/2000, Dr Beulink introduced to New Zealand, a treatment known as Autologous Fat Transfer. Dr Beulink rapidly developed and unlocked the potential of this procedure, becoming acclaimed as an Australasian or even world expect on this matter. By around 2005/2006, there became a realisation that during Autologous Fat Transfer, not only was there a transfer of fat cells taking place, but importantly, there were also millions of Adipose associated Stem Cells that were "hitching a ride" with the fat. With this realisation, came the dawning of the understanding of the clinical benefits and potential uses of Adult Adipose Derived Stem Cells. It explained the numerous added benefits that we had observed following fat transfer, which were over and above the expected simple cosmetic enhancements. What we, and medical collegues in Australia, had noticed, was that patients felt incredibly well after their fat transfer. Not only did the overlying skin and scars etc. show an unexpected significant regeneration following the underlying fat transfer, but as an added bonus, their energy levels and general well being was significantly elevated, pre-existing ailments such as allergy and immune problems often improved, and not uncommonly, arthritic aches and pains disappeared.
With the new understanding of the importance of these stem cells in fat transfer, techniques were developed to increase their relative numbers in, and "fortify", the transferred fat. With this, not only did transfer results improve, but the beneficial "side effects" also increased. Benefits were not only symptomatic and subjective, but measurable. With blood testing, inflammatory indicators were noted to drop in certain medical conditions following these fat/stem cell transfers.
- Tumescent (local anaesthetic) liposuction was developed in the 70's and 80's as a safe and effective way of removing (obtaining) fat. Its safety has been well established. Lipo-harvesting (lipo-aspiration) of the fat for the purpose of isolating stem cells is essentially mini or gentle (tumescent) liposuction. Dr Beulink has been lipo-harvesting fat since 1999 and in 2000 was one of the first doctors in New Zealand to offer full Tumescent Liposuction.
- The safety, healing and regenerative properties of Autologous Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) has been well established for over a decade. Early on, it was used extensively in facial surgery for the purposes of stimulating new bone growth in jaws for reconstruction and teeth implantation. In 2005, encouraged by these early clinical applications, Dr Beulink investigated and applied these concepts to his cosmetic practice. Initially using PRP, and then subsequently further refining this down to the more specific Platelet Derived Growth Factor (PDGF), he was able to speed up wound healing with particular application to Laser Resurfacing, and was able to further improve the clinical results when PRP and then PDGF was added to Fat Transfer.
The underlying basis to these clinical applications is the fact that PDGF is a potent activator of stem cells.
- In 2003, Dr Beulink introduced to New Zealand an exciting new technological/medical breakthrough for the treatment of skin cancers. Called Photodynamic Therapy, a photo-reactive (activated by light) natural product is applied topically (by a sticking plaster to the surface of the cancer), allowed to absorb into the bad cells, and then "zapped" by a particular wavelength laser. This treatment essentially limits the cell destruction to the bad cells only, leaving the good ones alone, and thus minimising scarring. However it was noticed that the scarring was not just minimised, but rather the healing was outstanding. Further more, the surrounding skin also showed some mild regenerative improvements. These and similar experiences by other doctors and researchers, became the basis world-wide for a whole new field of light based medical therapy. And why? Because it is now known that certain wavelengths of light specifically activate stem cells.
These techniques help form much of the basis to the clinical isolation and application of Adult Adipose Derived Stem Cells. The treatment may be considered a sum total of these individual processes, now brought all together into one procedure. The safety of each component has either had widespread agreed safety consenses and/or a time proven safety record. Adipose Derived Stem Cells, by virtue of "hitching a ride" with Fat Transfer procedures, has had over 90 years of clinical application and outcome. With the refining of this process to increasingly boost, activate or specifically isolate these cells, we have had almost a decade of clinical experience using Adipose Derived Stem Cells.
Can Autologous Adipose Derived Stem Cells Cause Cancer?
As mentioned above, Fat Transfer with its millions of associated infiltrated (Adipose Derived) Stem Cells, has been performed successively and without the development of cancers for at least 90 years. This is very strong supportive evidence for its safety concerning this issue.
However, issues have been raised over the use of embryonic, induced pluripotent or donor stem cells. The problem with these types of stem cells is that they may have unknown genetic/DNA issues. Embryonic, donor, and bone marrow or other derived stem cells require culturing and manipulative expansion in order to achieve therapeutic numbers. Concerns have been raised about possible genetic mutations that may occur with manipulative culturing, or for a single mutated cell being increased many thousnds of times over with manipulative expansion. Either of these processes could possibly lead to cancerous changes or unusual tissue development (this may be the possible cause of reported strange tissue developments such as teeth and hair growing in brain tissue etc). Because freshly harvested Autologous Adipose Derived Stem Cells do not require manipulative culturing or expansion, these issues and hence this procedure, has far superior inherent safety.
International Peer Review
Dr Beulink is a member of IFATS (International Federation for Adipose Therapeutics and Science) and attends conferences and workshops relating to Adipose Tissue and Stem Cells. He is in regular contact, discussion and review of matters relating specifically to this expanding field of medicine, with international collegues and contacts who also specialise in Adipose Derived Stem Cell research and therapy. To date, Dr Beulink is unaware of any safety issues that specifically relate to the inherent nature of Adipose Derived Stem Cells. To be noted however, are safety issues that are noninherent or non specific to the application of Adipose Derived Stem Cells. An example of this would be the well publicised forced closure of a German stem cell clinic where two deaths occurred in young cerebral palsy patients. In these cases, it was not the stem cells that caused death, but instead it was directly attributable to the invasive nature of the procedure, involving injecting directly into the brain, that caused haemorrhage (bleeding) and subsequent demise. This is not specific to stem cells, but rather, would be an extremely invasive and high risk technique regardless of what ever was being injected. At the New Zealand Stem Cell Clinic, we do not use, nor contemplate using, such highly invasive techniques.