Providing key context for my quote in WSJ on fat stem cell clinics

SVF SVF stromal vascular fractionJournalist Melinda Beck has a new piece on fat stem cell clinics in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) today that includes one very brief quote from me that I believe effectively ends up being an unintentional misquote because of a lack of context. Here in this blog piece I want to provide that important missing context.

Melinda and I talked quite a lot about stem cells on the phone and I worked hard in that discussion to provide a great deal of depth as I always do with journalists. Unfortunately, only one snippet ended up in the WSJ article:

“Fat stem cells come from fat, which has almost no role beyond cushioning,”

Of course fat as a tissue has major metabolic functions as well as serving structural and cushioning roles. I thought we talked about that, but perhaps not.

My main point that I articulated on the phone was that there are exceedingly few truly homologous uses of fat stem cells (also called stromal vascular fraction or SVF).

How many diseases or conditions can you think of that involve fat? Especially if one goes outside the cosmetic realm there are very few medical uses of fat stem cells that will be homologous. Non-homologous use means that fat stem cells must receive pre-market approval from the FDA and the stem cell clinics generally do not have that.

I hope this clears things up. Otherwise I found the WSJ piece valuable and adds new information to the discussion.

8 thoughts on “Providing key context for my quote in WSJ on fat stem cell clinics”

  1. Paul,

    I’m not a “medical person”, but I’ve enjoyed reading the information you provide on your blog. I find the whole debate about the legitimacy of these self-proclaimed stem cell clinics fascinating ,and I too am somewhat amazed by the paucity of regulatory oversight and action, especially considering the absence of evidence for any clear benefit from these offered treatments.

    While I agree with many of the points you make here, I do think one thing that you should offer readers is a statement about whether or not you personally have any potential conflict of interest in this debate. Just as physicians are required to disclose any corporate affiliation or sponsorship when presenting materials at conferences, I think you too should disclose whether or not you receive any monies or other support, not only for your research, but also for any appearances you might make, or for that matter, for this blog itself. Do you have any affiliation with, or ownership in any pharmaceutical or biotechnology companies that are actively developing stem-cell based therapeutics?? If so, then I believe you owe it to your readers to disclose this.

    1. @Leon,
      Thanks for the feedback.
      And what you ask is a fair question. To my knowledge I don’t have any COIs of the kind you mentioned.
      I don’t get any funds for various media appearances. I don’t receive anything for what I blog about here (e.g. no sponsored posts), or to support this blog itself. I have no affiliation with nor do I receive any funds from clinical biotech/pharma companies. As you’ve likely noticed, this blog does have advertisements at the top to support the hosting service for the blog and other costs. These advertisers are suppliers of research reagents.

      1. Thanks Paul, that’s great to hear. Your transparency means a great deal, and I’m sure that other readers appreciate it as well. Keep up the great work!

  2. Hi Paul:

    I’ve been reading the draft FDA guidelines. The one on adipose tissue is very clear. Adipose tissue’s function is structural, so the ONLY use of adipose tissue that is not regulated by the FDA is transplant for cosmetic surgery…but only for areas where it would serve the same function, as structural tissue. Importantly, this means that adipose tissue transplantation to augment breasts IS under FDA regulation. Also, producing SVF from fat removes its structural function, so all SVF applications require FDA oversight.

    I can’t say that the draft guidelines are gripping reading, but they are very helpful in clarifying the FDA’s position. I admit to having trouble parsing their meaning sometimes, but that’s because my mind shuts off whenever there’s a reference to “CFR”s. I’m not good with acronyms…

  3. Ah, communication, it’s such a drag. Regarding:
    “How many diseases or conditions can you think of that involve fat?”
    I would answer a great many… But perhaps you didn’t quite mean it that way?

      1. Actually, a question arises that you may be able to answer for me. Given that being fat seems to be associated with many metabolic diseases: Are fat cells changed in some epigenetic way when they become, well, loaded with fat?

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