A woman went to see her doctor complaining that she could not open her right eye. The Los Angeles woman in her late sixties explained that after undergoing a cosmetic procedure a few months earlier, her right eye seemed to have glued itself shut. While she could not open her right eye without feeling excruciating pain, she said that every single time she tried to pry it open, she heard a strange, sharp clipping sound coming.
The woman's doctor, cosmetic surgeon Allan Wu, admitted that he initially believed that the woman was either imagining things or making things up, according to Scientific American. But, after examining the woman in person, the doctor saw that her eyelid was indeed drooped shut and that her eye was swollen.
His discovery after his initial examination was even more astonishing.
After nearly seven hours of surgery exploring his patient's eyelid and the tissue surrounding her eye, Wu and his colleagues managed to dig out mysterious pieces of small bone fragments that appeared to be growing in the flesh around her eye.
The clicking the woman had heard when she forced her right eye open had been the sound of the small chunks of bone grinding against one another.
Apparently the surgery the woman had had three months earlier was a relatively new kind of cosmetic procedure at a different clinic in Los Angeles. The new procedure was essentially a stem cell face-lift. Doctors has extracted adult stem cells from her belly fat, isolated them and then injected them along with a filler, calcium hydroxylapatite, around her eyes.
Stem cells are cells that can duplicate in an immature state, and are capable of developing into many different kinds of mature tissue. In this particular case, the woman had paid more than $20,000 to have doctors extract mesenchymal stem cells, which can turn into bone, cartilage or fat, from her body, so that the isolated cells can be injected back into her face.
Wu believes that because the stem cells were injected along with calcium hydroxylapatite, which was used as filler to reduce the appearance of wrinkles, the combination of the mineral filler and stem cells, which can develop into many different types of cells, turned into bone.
The woman is doing well since Wu removed the pieces of bone from her eyelid in 2009. However, it is possible that the living stem cells remaining in her face could strike and turn into bone or some other abnormal bodily tissue in other parts of her face.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any cosmetic product or treatment involving stem cells, they are growing in popularity in clinics around the world. The medical possibilities that can come from stem cells are limitless, but they are still poorly understood, very unpredictable and may also produce unintended and harmful effects.