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A process for isolating tissue-specific progenitor cells exploits solid fat tissue obtained as waste from such elective surgical procedures as abdominoplasties (“tummy tucks”) and breast reductions. Until now, a painful and risky process of aspiration of bone marrow has been used to obtain a limited number of tissue-specific progenitor cells.

The present process yields more tissue-specific progenitor cells and involves much less pain and risk for the patient. This process includes separation of fat from skin, mincing of the fat into small pieces, and forcing a fat saline mixture through a sieve. The mixture is then digested with collagenase type I in an incubator. After centrifugation tissue-specific progenitor cells are recovered and placed in a tissue-culture medium in flasks or Petri dishes. The tissue-specific progenitor cells can be used for such purposes as (1) generating three-dimensional tissue equivalent models for studying bone loss and muscle atrophy (among other deficiencies) and, ultimately, (2) generating replacements for tissues lost by the fat donor because of injury or disease.

This work was done by Diane Byerly of Johnson Space Center and Marguerite A. Sognier of Universities Space Research Association.MSC-23775-1

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