A painkiller cell

Control of localized pain syndrome by autologous fat graft. The abundance of a particular subset of mesenchymal stem cells in the adipose tissue grafted into scars correlates with pain reduction. Research group of Fabio Grassi, IRB. Pain.

Bellinzona, December 7 – Every year over 100 million patients in the developed world are affected by remarkable scars. To ameliorate scar consistency, color, softness and elasticity, a well-established surgical technique exploits grafting of autologous fat taken from abdomen and/or flanks under the scar. Whereas localized pain, ranging from a minor itch to insufferable allodynia, can persist in the scar area, some patients escape these pathological syndromes after grafting. By analyzing the autologous adipose tissue to be engrafted, we discovered a cell population, the abundance of which highly correlates with pain reduction not only after surgery but also years thereafter. These cells have similar features of mesenchymal stem cells and express endogenous opioid peptides and enzymes that could reduce the stimulation of pain receptors. Therefore, the enrichment of this cell subset before grafting the adipose tissue might result in significant amelioration of localized pain syndromes.


Image: Cartoon representing a pseudo-color image of the transmission electron microscopy of a “pain relieving” adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cell. Created with biorender.com