Do Fat Cells Die and Reproduce and Does This Effect Grafted Fat?

I have been ready that studies have shown fat cells die and then get replaced with new cells. If this is the case, when fat has been grafted to the face and the cells die, do the new cells reproduce into the face or back to the original site ie the stomach?

Doctor Answers (6)

Fate of grafted fat cells

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If grafted fat cells die they will not necessarily get replaced with other fat cells, although the fat inside the cell may to some extent be taken up by other surviving fat cells.


Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 132 reviews

Do Fat Cells Die and Reproduce Following Transfer?

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Fat cells that die after transfer to a new area do not reproduce, but are permanently lost. Fortunately this is rare in most people when the work is done by an experienced surgeon. Living cells provide the results seen after successful fat grafting.  Normal fat cells will increase or decrease in size as we gain or lose weight. Liposuction or fat harvesting will decrease the number of fat cells in that area.

Richard W. Fleming, MD
Beverly Hills Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 14 reviews

Fat cells may become dormant after grafting

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There is evidence that some of the fat cells that have been transferred may become dormant or be re-absorbed.  This is highly dependent on the fat procurement and grafting techniques, as well as the preparation of the recipient site.

We have seen an actual increase in volume after 6 months in some cases of macro fat transfer (breast and buttocks).  This is actually due to the fact that the fat cells that survive are normally functioning fat cells and will behave like normal tissue, responding to weight gain and loss as they would have in the body area where they came from.

There are other cells (sometimes called stem or pluri-potential cells) that are present in the grafted fat.  These cells may produce more fat cells, and therefore increase the total numbers.  Studies on this matter are being added every day.  Dr. Rigotti's studies on the matter are very informative.

Mario Diana, MD
San Antonio Plastic Surgeon
4.5 out of 5 stars 22 reviews

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Definition of Fat Cell Death

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Horror movie zombies and vampires are the only dead things that get around and reproduce. Although genetically, inability to reproduce is defined as death, physiologocally the lack of sufficient oxygen needed to sustain the most basic processes required to sustain function leads to irreversible breakdown of the cell and its eventual break up.
- heart muscle death = heart attack
- brain death = stroke
- fat cells death or non-take means those fat cells will go away forever and be replaced by some scar tissue.

Peter A. Aldea, MD
Memphis Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 58 reviews

Dead fat doesn't reproduce

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When fat if grafted, the cells that regain blood supply survive, also called "take."  These are now living viable fat cells that will not go away.  Those fat cells that don't "take" will be absorbed by the body over  months.  Dead cells of any kind don't reproduce.

Richard P. Rand, MD, FACS
Seattle Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 47 reviews

Dead cells do not reproduce with fat transfer

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When doing a fat transfer procedure the surgeon removes the fat from one area the "donor site" which is typically abdomen, love handle, inner thighs. The fat is then placed in a centrifuge and spun down separating the fat from blood and liquid. This leaves the surgeon with fat for injection. The fat is then injected into the "receiving site." The fat cells that survive this process become viable fat cells. Fat cells that do not will be reabsorbed by the body. Fat cells do not reproduce however they may be transferred to other areas. You are born with a certain number of fat cells and those cells get smaller and larger depending upon weight gain. Once the cells are removed you do not reproduce more fat cells.

Michael Elam, MD
Orange County Facial Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 123 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.