cosmetic surgery

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Beyond ‘Before And After:’ The Subtle Scoop On Cosmetic Surgery

Work by a Saint Petersburg cosmetic surgeon on Wikimedia Commons

Work by a Saint Petersburg cosmetic surgeon on Wikimedia Commons

I confess: Sometimes I think about getting a little work done. Nothing major. It’s just that on occasion, I look in the mirror and think the bags under my eyes loom so large they wouldn’t be allowed as carry-ons on a plane.

Mightn’t something be done? Mightn’t the cost and risks be minimal, and the benefits beautiful?

Thankfully, a study published this month in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery has helped pull me back from that ledge. (Yes, it’s a ledge — for a health reporter who believes in self-acceptance and has written far too many medical stories that begin “Everything was fine until that minor operation…”)

The study has garnered headlines like this one from CNBC: “How much younger does plastic surgery make you look? 3 years.” And this on Fox News: “Cosmetic surgery subtracts years, doesn’t add beauty.”

Phew. Suddenly, there was a counter-force to all those seductive before-and-after photos. Go under the knife for a three-year gain? (Or in my case, to look like I’d slept an extra hour?) Not likely.

But hold on. I spoke to the study’s author, Dr. Joshua Zimm, a facial, plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Lenox Hill Hospital, and he warned me that many people were spinning his study’s results into something they weren’t.

“There are some out there saying if you get a facelift, you’re only going to look three years younger,” he said. “That is absolutely not what this study says. I want to be very clear.”

So what does it show? Continue reading

Inside The Murky World Of Cosmetic Stem Cells

By Judy Foreman
Guest Contributor

The woman in L.A. simply wanted a facelift. That’s all. But what she got was a nightmare – and a lesson for any of us who might be lured into the under-studied territory of cosmetic stem cell procedures.

Several years ago, the woman went to a California clinic that offered her a cosmetic procedure in which her own adult stem cells were harvested from her abdominal fat. (Adult stem cells are undifferentiated cells found amidst differentiated cells in tissues throughout the body; these cells can not only make many endless copies of themselves, they can also differentiate to yield some or all of the major cell types of the tissue from which they came.

(thinkpanama/flickr)

(thinkpanama/flickr)


At the clinic, doctors extracted from the woman’s fat stem cells that could turn into bone, cartilage or fat, according to a recent Scientific American article. Apparently, these cells were either mixed with a facial “filler” called calcium hydroxylapatite or injected into the same area as the filler. The filler can nudge stem cells to turn into bone.

Three months later, the woman couldn’t open her right eye without significant discomfort, and she heard a strange, clicking sound every time she opened and closed her eye.

Worried, she sought help from a different clinic, The Morrow Institute in Rancho Mirage, and a different doctor, cosmetic surgeon Dr. Allan Wu, chief scientific officer of the institute’s stem cell research lab.

In a telephone interview this week, Wu told me that, during a multi-hour procedure, the Morrow team extracted bits of bone from her eyelid and the area around her eye. The clicking sound, he said, probably came from these bone fragments hitting each other. Though the woman, whose name has not been released publicly, appears to be fine now, he said, other facelifts using isolated and concentrated stem cells alone may carry a risk of unintended bone growth and other potential long-term consequences.

The operation “took all of us a lot of work, a lot of sweating,” Wu told me. “Why? Because when you see bone and fat, or if you happen to see hair [in parts of the body where they shouldn’t be] you worry about a teratoma [a kind of tumor] that stem cells can form. We were all very worried – the question was, was this cancer surgery or cosmetic reconstruction?” Continue reading