Surgeons performing procedures that remove fat tissue have no adequate substitute to help reshape a patient’s body and fill large soft-tissue defects. Skin flaps tightened over the area become strained and tissue expanders require additional surgical intervention, so neither process is ideal. The Hohenstein Institute, Bönnigheim, Germany, hopes to develop the ideal solution—a biodegradable biopolymer used to cultivate the patient’s own fat cells from human adult stem cells.
A research team, led by Dr. Dirk Höfer, director of the Institute for Hygiene and Biotechnology at Hohenstein, cultivated dense layers of stem cells on fibers, meshes and nonwovens. The fiber-bound stem cells release growth factors that promote the formation of new blood vessels at the implantation site to bring nutrients to the fat cells. To develop a usable soft-tissue substitute, the Hohenstein team will continue to develop methods to grow the patient’s own stem cells on textile implants; maintain rapid formation of new blood vessels; ensure that stem cells differentiate into fat, preferably in the patient’s body; and adapt implants to fit the individual patient’s soft-tissue deficit.