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Doctor uses stem cells to fill cancer scars

February 10, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
When doctors perform cancer surgery, they often remove so much tissue that it leaves serious indentations -- altering a person's appearance. If you saw Hersel Mikelian's face now, you'd never know he used to have a gaping hole on the right side of his face.

"I was very sad. I was very angry that the doctors previously they did a surgery even though it was the right thing to do," said Mikelian.

He had a salivary gland cancer that required the removal of part of his jaw.

"I had a tremendous amount of pain in my jaw area because of the nerves, they were basically exposed," said Mikelian. "I looked for a reconstruction surgeon and most doctors did not want to touch me."

That is until he met cosmetic surgeon Dr. Nathan Newman. He pioneered a new treatment called the Stem Cell Lift.

He removes fat from the patient and harvests one of the body's most precious resource: adult stem cells. He then doubles and triples the concentration of stem cells before injecting.

"The stem cell is what brings in the new blood vessels, rebuilds the structures, maintains the volume by replacing the fat cells that die off," said Newman.

Not only can the fat and stem cells be used for cosmetic reasons, Newman says the stem cells are so smart they can also break up scaring caused by the cancer treatment and rebuild and reconstruct surrounding tissues.

"We take these fat cells that are enriched with stem cells and put them next to bone. I can actually grow bone and make that bone stronger and bigger," said Newman.

He says there's no risk of rejection because you're using your own fat and stem cells.

It took about two years and about 20 to 24 injections. Mikelian says nobody can even tell he ever had a dent in his jaw and the nerves and tissues appeared to have healed.

"He has given me my face back. He has given me my confidence back. And he has given me my hope back," said Mikelian.

The price of the procedure depends on how many injections a person needs. The treatment of one area could run into the thousands. Newman says almost anyone can be a candidate for a Stem Cell Lift and the only limitation is that the procedure is dependent on how much fat a patient has.