Regenerative Medicine in Plastic Surgery


If you know anything about regenerative medicine, then you may be curious about the role of regenerative medicine in plastic surgery.

Then again, maybe you’re not familiar with regenerative medicine and it sounds like some sort of idea stirred up by a science fiction author. It’s not.

In fact, regenerative medicine has been a godsend for folks who’ve lost tissue because of cancer, burns, or other trauma where reconstructive plastic surgery options are limited. This is why plastic surgeons have been instrumental in developing new therapies in regenerative medicine.

So What Is Regenerative Medicine?

The field of regenerative medicine is based on the concept that doctors can turn to the body’s own powers to heal itself rather than solely relying on drugs or invasive surgical procedures. The thought is that by replacing, engineering, and regenerating human cells, tissues, or even organs, normal form and function can once again be achieved.

This is not to say that there is no use for drugs and surgical procedures though. In fact, along with cells, tissues, and organs, regenerative medicine utilizes drugs, synthetic biomaterials, and devices.

In a nut shell, the goal of regenerative medicine is to both heal damaged tissue, and form new tissue.

Regenerative Medicine in Plastic Surgery

Patients who have suffered with the aforementioned cancer and burns are not the only ones to benefit from regenerative medicine. Researchers and plastic surgeons are currently developing regenerative medicine-based treatments for those with congenital anomalies of the face and hands (including microtia, cleft lip, and cleft palate), facial nerve injuries, limb and muscle loss, and injuries to major nerves in the arms and legs.

The following are some of the ways that plastic surgeons are incorporating regenerative medicine therapies:

Burn Care

With severe burns where the dermal (innermost) layer of skin is damaged, plastic surgeons are now able to use protein scaffolds to generate new tissue there.

Tissue Expansion to Generate New Skin

Plastic surgeons also pioneered a technique whereby they are able to implant balloon devices that are gradually expanded to generate new skin tissue to cover a deformity. This therapy has been revolutionary in breast reconstruction as well as for treating birth anomalies.

Wound Care

Reconstructive plastic surgery alone may not be enough to repair complex wounds that are difficult to heal. In these cases, there’s a need for tissue engineering – i.e. skin substitutes made from living cells grown in a lab – to aid in the healing.

Additionally, it was a plastic surgeon who was the first to bring negative pressure devices into the arena of wound care. These regenerative medical devices employ micro-mechanical forces to stimulate and further wound healing.

Treating Scars

Laser and intense pulsed light are just two of the energy-based devices from the field of regenerative medicine. And they’re increasingly gaining in popularity with plastic surgeons and their patients to improve the healing of scars.

Breast Reconstruction

Women who have survived breast cancer through a mastectomy are faced with the decision of whether they want to have breast reconstruction. Today, plastic surgeons can use decellularized tissue scaffolds to generate new tissue over breast implants to achieve a better outcome.

Bone Regeneration

At one time, patients suffering extensive trauma that involved the loss of large bone segments had to cut their losses. But now, through regenerative medical therapies, plastic surgeons can take advantage of calcium-based scaffolds and biomaterials derived from bone to form new bone tissue for these patients.

Regeneration of Nerves

When is comes to regenerating nerves, this is where the field of regenerative medicine feels decidedly like something out of science fiction. But plastic surgeons are finding new ways every day to restore optimal function to patients who have experienced nerve injury.

Therapies in this area include using specialized growth factors to accelerate nerve healing, and specific biomaterials that actually guide and direct the growth of new nerve fibers.

It’s really quite amazing.

Could Plastic Surgery Help You?

Plastic surgery is no longer about just improving a nose that’s too big or breasts that are too small. Although these are completely valid surgeries, it’s clear that there’s a need for regenerative medicine in plastic surgery too.

So if you’re struggling with an aesthetic or functional flaw that you feel could be repaired though plastic surgery, contact us today. During your free consultation, your plastic surgeon will clearly lay out your options so you know exactly what to expect.