She explained that she could not open her right eye without considerable pain and that every time she forced it open, she heard a strange click -- a sharp sound, like a tiny castanet snapping shut. [...] Six and a half hours of surgery later, he and his colleagues had dug out small chunks of bone from the woman's eyelid and tissue surrounding her eye, which was scratched but largely intact. The clicks she heard were the bone fragments grinding against one another.
About three months earlier the woman had opted for a relatively new kind of cosmetic procedure at a different clinic in Beverly Hills -- a face-lift that made use of her own adult stem cells. First, cosmetic surgeons had removed some the woman's abdominal fat with liposuction and isolated the adult stem cells within -- a family of cells that can make many copies of themselves in an immature state and can develop into several different kinds of mature tissue. In this case the doctors extracted mesenchymal stem cells -- which can turn into bone, cartilage or fat, among other tissues -- and injected those cells back into her face, especially around her eyes. The procedure cost her more than $20,000, Wu recollects. Such face-lifts supposedly rejuvenate the skin because stem cells turn into brand-new tissue and release chemicals that help heal aging cells and stimulate nearby cells to proliferate.
During the face-lift her clinicians had also injected some dermal filler, which plastic surgeons have safely used for more than 20 years to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. The principal component of such fillers is calcium hydroxylapatite, a mineral with which cell biologists encourage mesenchymal stem cells to turn into bone -- a fact that escaped the woman's clinicians.
Current Music: Ladyhawke -- Vanity ♬