When patients undergo body sculpting treatments with plastic surgeon Ivona Percec, MD, PhD, they’re doing more than evolving their appearance: They’re impacting the future of medicine.
The Percec Anti-Aging Lab makes this possible. Since its founding in 2010, the lab has received funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and currently consists of four researchers, including Dr. Percec. Her work focuses on how stem cells (culled from fat tissue) impact the aging process at various stages, as well as how those cells affect scar tissue formation and face and body rejuvenation. Through the research, Dr. Percec hopes to delay the aging process by intervening at the cellular level.
When a cosmetic surgery patient at Penn Medicine undergoes a procedure such as liposuction or tummy tuck, Dr. Percec asks for consent to collect the patient’s excess fat (adipose) tissue removed during treatment. So far, she says all patients have agreed to donate their adipose tissues.
“They appreciate the fact that those tissues are contributing to science, instead of being thrown in a trash can. We have a unique approach to our research because of that,” she says.
But her research will impact more than the aesthetic surgery world. Stem cells differ from the body’s other cells in that they can divide over long periods, and they don’t specialize in any one area but can produce specialized cells.
“What we learn about these aging stem cells of fat can be applied to other systems as well,” Dr. Percec says. “Aging is the primary risk factor for most diseases: cancer, diabetes, hypertension, neurological problems. If I can address aging, figure out how it works and establish steps to prevent or improve it, we’re much more likely to have a beneficial effect on all of these diseases.”
The research process in the Anti-Aging Lab currently is happening at a very basic, cellular level. It’s not yet ready to be introduced in patient treatments or in animal models. Dr. Percec says working with human tissues is challenging and takes longer than other forms of research, but that the benefits stand to be extremely impactful.
She adds, “I want quality work to come out of here that can stand up against all other basic science. I want to continue the tradition of doing strong science in medicine.”
In their studies so far, the anti-aging researchers have learned that stem cells remain very stable with age compared to other cell types; however, that finding only leads Dr. Percec to more questions, including how variables such as mitochondria, inflammation and the cellular environment affect cell aging.
3 Ways Penn Scientists Are Re-Defining the Aging Process
Stem cells play a key role in aging, and gaining insight into exactly how they work gives scientists more information than ever on how the aging process happens—and what they can do about it. Today, we are:
- Examining scar tissue and age-related differences in wound healing to reduce recovery time and scar tissue formation
- Studying cell development and the effect on cell function to determine if blocking or enhancing cell proteins can prevent metabolic disease
- Exploring the cellular environment and the role it plays in aging
Recently Published Anti-Aging Research and News
Philadelphia Style: “Dr. Ivona Percec on Her Stem Cell Research”—Relying on the cutting-edge study of stem cells, Penn surgeon Ivona Percec is out to find the real fountain of youth.
Aesthetic Surgery Journal: “Platelet Rich Plasma Augments Adipose-Derived Stem Cell Growth and Differentiation”
Stem Cells: “Transcriptional and Cell Cycle Alterations Mark Aging of Primary Human Adipose-DerivedStem Cells”
Learn how you can participate in Dr. Percec’s research or get the latest on new studies coming out of the Percec Anti-Aging Lab. Contact us by filling out our online form or calling us at 610-902-1828.