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New treatment fills smile wrinkles with cells

May 14, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
As an aesthetician, 42-year-old Francesa Paige prefers a natural approach to beauty. She's excited to be one of the first to try a wrinkle-improving procedure made from her own cells.

"I'm using my own body, my own skin cells, to smooth out the smile lines without having to put something artificial into my face," she said.

LaViv is the first FDA approved autologous cell therapy for cosmetic use in the laugh lines.

Plastic surgeon Dr. McCoy Moretz took three skin samples from the back of Paige's ear. From there, he sent it off to a lab in Pennsylvania, where lab technicians extract collagen producing cells called fibroblasts and then grow them. After 90 days, the first of three batches was sent back to the physician. Patients come back for injections every three to four weeks.

Moretz said that over a three month period, patients will notice results within the first month to month and a half. Unlike injectables such as restylane or juvederm, patients don't get instant results.

"That's what's exciting for me, is that it's gradual. It's not overnight," Paige said.

The process is so new, Dr. Moretz doesn't have before-and-after pictures. But in the original FDA studies on 421 patients, about half of those treated felt it made a significant improvement for them. Their doctors saw improvement in about 30 percent of them.

LaViv researchers said the effects last for six months, but how much longer after six months is not yet known and is part of ongoing studies. However, some experts are optimistic about the results.

"I feel that's it's probably going to last even longer because this is a live cell that we are injecting back into your skin," said dermatologist Dr. Shirley Chi.

While it's exciting new technology, Chi warns it's not for everyone, especially anyone with a history of a common skin cancer.

"In the study, they actually did have a couple of patients that then did develop basal cell carcinoma within a couple of months of getting the product injected," Chi said.

Moretz said whether it had anything to do with laViv or not is highly questionable, but it's still concerning.

People with collagen vascular skin conditions such as lupus or scleroderma are not candidates for laViv. Those with allergic to cow products and certain antibiotics also do not qualify.

Other potential complications are dark spots and scarring.

"I may not recommend this for my darker skin types, and that's anywhere from Asian skin to African-American skin," Chi said.

"Anytime you're penetrating the skin with the needle in a darker complexioned individual, you have the potential for stimulating those melanocytes, those melanin-producing cells," Moretz added.

However, in time, the spots disappear.

Then there's the cost. Different doctors quoted us anywhere from $3,500 to $6,000.

Moretz said he can see it as anti-aging weapon to be used alongside fillers.

"You can do little bits of them all in order to give a very natural aesthetic and not ever look done," he said.

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