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Tummy tucks, liposuctions, body lifts and even breast reductions are all cosmetic surgical procedures where mostly tissue and fat are removed from a person’s body. So much focus is on removing that excess that once it is gone we hardly ever think of it anymore. Well, one Bath University PhD student named Rebecca Travers, is thinking about all that excess. More specifically, what benefits could this “waste” pose for the future of medical and technology research.
Travers is one of a small, but growing, number of professional medical researchers and specialists interested in researching left over adipose tissue – fat – from cosmetic surgical procedures. With cooperation from certified clinics and surgeons, they save excess and intact flesh from being thrown in the incinerator and take it back to their lab for analysis.
“We don’t have any figures, but it’s a growth area and is driven by some very interesting developments” says Sian Harding, a professor of cardiac pharmacology, Imperial College London. Harding is also one of the authors of the report “Human Bodies: donation for medicine and research”, by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics.
Currently the tissues left over from cosmetic surgeries are being analyzed for a vast number of uses, such as the studying the fat to investigate exercising’s impact on the body. Others studies include turning fat into stem cells, recycling excess tissue for breast reconstruction or cosmetic grafting and even investigating obesity.
Guidelines for collecting the tissue is quite specific and rigid. There is a carefully worded consent form which the patient must sign if he or she agrees to donate the excess after the cosmetic surgical procedure. In the document, it explicitly and clearly states the donation of the tissue is voluntary and that there is not nor ever be be any exchange of monies involved.
According to reports most patients who are approached are happy to donate. Would you donate your excess tissue?