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Why Fat & Why MFAT? Adipose-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Samuel G Oltman, ND, RMSK


Your own fat tissue is the most abundant and safest source of stem cells in the body. Fat has more stem cells than bone marrow, and is much easier to obtain. It’s safe because it’s yours– there’s no risk of rejection or reaction to the material because it’s you (this is termed “autologous”). Micro-Fragmented Adipose Tissue (MFAT) is a product created from your own fat that contains a cocktail of mesenchymal stem cells, growth factors, and a collagen matrix to support and cushion damaged tissue. MFAT is on the cutting edge of orthopedic treatments for joint arthritis and damage with very promising research and clinical results.


Stem Cells In Fat

Fat, or “adipose tissue”, has up to 500x the concentration of mesenchymal stem cells compared to bone marrow (1). Mesenchymal stem cells are defined as cells that have the capability to turn into bone, cartilage, and connective tissue (2). This can be confirmed with cellular analysis of the genes they express and by growing them in a petri dish to analyze their characteristics (3). When injected into a joint, these cells can promote a powerful healing response (4). The MFAT procedure is all done within the same 1-2 hours so the cells extracted from your body remain viable and living. The viability of cells is also independent of age and BMI, meaning the idea that “you’re too old” to benefit from MFAT is false (5). Overall health is the most impactful factor on success and is a part of every patient plan.

knee arthritis

Umbilical cord injection products (amniotic fluid, Wharton’s jelly, etc) may sound promising but there are 2 big problems:

  1. There likely aren’t any living cells in those products after all the processing (6)

  2. The FDA has made it abundantly clear that they are illegal

Whether or not you agree with this stance by the FDA, it is currently the state of the field. MFAT (and bone marrow) fit into the human cell, tissue, or cellular tissue-based product (HCT/P) category: MFAT is minimally manipulated and used for homologous tissue, making it an acceptable procedure for cushioning and supporting joints (7).


MFAT Is Safe & Effective

The safety for MFAT is already well-established. The rate of complication is extremely low and is similar to any other injection procedure. Because the medicine is your own cells and tissue, there is no chance of an immune response or rejection. Compared to bone marrow, the other common source of autologous stem cells, the harvesting of adipose tissue is very simple and pain-free. Bone marrow requires a painful procedure to drill into your bone. Adipose tissue only requires a simple minor surgery usually lasting 20-30 minutes.

stem cells

Bridging The Gap Between Physical Therapy and Surgery

The effectiveness of MFAT looks more promising with each study that’s published (8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13). In my clinical experience, MFAT is the most effective and longest lasting non-surgical option for most people with arthritis. This is what we mean by addressing the gap between physical therapy and surgery. The scientific literature backs this up with many long term studies showing decreases in pain and increase in function over 3+ years periods. MFAT can result in MRI confirmed structural improvements to cartilage surfaces and torn tendons/ligaments by creating structural support for the damaged area (14). While the full benefits of an MFAT procedure can take several months to show because we’re still working at the speed of your body (15), the results also last for a long time.

Non-Surgical Arthritis Treatment

MFAT is safe, rich in stem cells, and effective. At Cascade Regenerative Medicine, we are continually looking for ways to improve our care to provide our patients with the most effective cutting-edge treatments available. If you have arthritis and have been told there’s no option but to get cortisone injections and wait for surgery, you have been told wrong. See what the future of orthopedic medicine looks like, and schedule with us today.


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