Memo to Stem Cell Researchers: Take My Fat, Please!

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L.A. cell phones are ringing off the hook as the groundbreaking news gets around: Scientists have discovered an altruistic use for liposuctioned fat!

No, it's not just an aging starlet's daydream — it's true. UCLA scientists have figured out a way to harvest stem cells, those celebrated and controversial medical miracles, from fat removed during cosmetic surgery. It's a discovery that could, in the very long term, both bolster scientists' quest for elusive cures and, perhaps more important to the denizens of La-La Land, remove the stigma of selfishness from the process of attaining preternaturally thin thighs.

Stem cells, which are simply cells that haven't decided what they want to be when they grow up, are widely considered one of science's best tools for developing cures for myriad diseases. A stem cell, taken before it's become, say, a fat cell, can be coaxed into becoming any number of other types of cells. Eventually, scientists hope, these modified organisms will be used to replace diseased cells all over the body.

Science has been touting stem cells for years now. But, as the UCLA team is quick to point out, stem cell research is currently hampered by the controversy surrounding the cells, which are generally culled from aborted fetuses or from embryos left behind after fertility treatments. If scientists can perfect a method of extracting stem cells from discarded (and decidedly uncontroversial) fat, they could skirt the ethical conundrum altogether.

Meanwhile, back in the plastic surgery suites of Beverly Hills, watch for a brand new calculus of fat reduction to emerge: If liposuction can help science, will whittling your waist become a philanthropic act? Will plastic surgeons be canonized?

Finally, in honor of tax season, let's pose the question everyone's really asking themselves: Can I deduct a round of liposuction as a charitable contribution? If so, I've got about 5 pounds here I'd be happy to hand over — in the interest of science, of course.