LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Scientists say human fat may be a potential source of stem cells, a breakthrough that could lead to a cure for numerous illnesses.
Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Pittsburgh used fat collected by liposuction to isolate the stem cells, which they said were then converted into bone, cartilage and muscle depending on the conditions in which they were grown.
Stem cells, which are the building blocks for all human tissue, have the potential to become virtually any type of tissue. They have been harvested previously from bone marrow, brain and fetal tissue.
"We don't yet know the limits for stem cells found in fat. So far, we have seen promising results with all of the tissue types we have examined," Dr. Adam J. Katz, a member of the research team from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said in a statement released Monday.
The study was published in the journal Tissue Engineering.
The finding means a person's own fat could conceivably be used to provide the tissue needed to treat disease or repair injuries.
"We hope one day to be able to remove diseased tissue or organs, harvest stem cells and replace the lost tissues on the same day during the same operation," Dr. Marc Hedrick, the research team's primary investigator at UCLA, said in the statement. "There is potential for regenerating a lot of different tissues, perhaps some day solid organs, glands, nerves or brain tissue."
Stem cell research also holds promise toward finding cures for Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, cancer, Parkinson's disease, heart disease and spinal cord injuries.
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