Autologous human fibroblasts (AHF)

To date one of the most exciting advances in anti ageing medicine involves injecting patients with their own living cultured cells (autologous human fibroblasts (AHF). In other words, your own cells are used to rejuvenate your face).

The fibroblast cell produces collagen, hyaluronic acids, elastins and repair proteins that are necessary to keep the skin young and supple.

AHF can be used to treat facial wrinkles, acne and chicken pox scars, and crow's feet, smile lines and certain burns. Since the patient's own cells are used the risks are negligible.

A physician extracts a small skin biopsy from under the patient's armpit, which is sent to a Cape Town Laboratory where millions of living fibroblast cells are generated from the original sample.

The patient's new living fibroblast cells are sent back in syringes to the physician for injection over a series of three office visits (spaced two weeks apart). The injected cultured cells gradually produce new collagen to correct dermal depression of wrinkles and scars.

Results usually appear between one to three months after treatment and correction is thought to last up to eight years.

Not everyone is a candidate for cell therapy. Potential patients are counseled that their cells may not be suitable for culture and that there are inclusion and exclusion criteria for the best results. Genetic make up, extent of solar damage, alcohol abuse and cigarette smoking negate the effect of cell therapy.

Fibroblast cells can be stored long-term (cyropreserved) for patients enabling them to use younger, more active cells when they require further dermal treatment in the future.

Prof Don du Toit, (OXON) Phd, MBChB, FCS, FRCS and University of Oxford graduate, pioneer and doyen in soft tissue augmentation in South Africa believes that cell therapy should not be restricted to the very rich.

Since Prof du Toit introduced biocellular therapy using fibroblasts as facial filler in South Africa at his rooms at Tygerberg hospital in the Cape, scores of hopefuls have been queuing for the procedure that costs around R4500 for a series of 3 injections. Exceptional value, considering that an overseas company based here offers the same service at almost ten times the price. They attribute the higher fees to the cost flying the patients' cells to overseas for culture in UK and then couriering them back.

In the UK fibroblast therapy is offered in 60 private clinics and charges exceed R45 000 for a full face treatment.

Written by Lorraine Forbes
Source: Prof Don du Toit, (OXON) PhD, MBChB, FCS, FRCS

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