Organics and science often make strange bedfellows. In an odd twist, they've come together to deliver the hottest new wrinkle filler in town: one seeded from your own skin cells.
The newest injectable, laViv®, has been FDA approved after 9 years of clinical studies and will soon be in the hands of skin docs and plastic surgeons across the country.
Unlike other fillers that erase wrinkles, lines, and scars, such as Juvaderm and Restylane, laViv® is bioengineered from your own body, so there's little chance you'll be allergic to it.Here, your questions answered:
What is it? Technically laViv® (azficel-T) is an autologous cellular product, a liquid injectable made from your own skin cells.
How is it made? Your doc takes several miniscule tissue samples from behind your ear and sends them to a lab. There, fibroblasts from your skin are isolated, purified, and multiplied millions of times. (Fibroblasts make the building blocks of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid, the materials that keep your skin plump and firm.) The resulting liquid, which is like Miracle-Gro for your skin cells, is sent in vials to your doctor.
What does it do? LaViv can fill in most facial wrinkles, as long as they're not deep folds, including smile lines at the corners of the mouth, pucker lines above the lip, nose-to-mouth-corner lines, and wrinkles around the eyes. "I was particularly impressed with the results in the crepey eye area and the lines above the upper lip," says Ava Shamban, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and one of laViv's investigators.
It may become the go-to filler for pitted acne scars, too, according to another clinical investigator, Margaret Weiss, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
How long does it last? Conservative estimates are that laViv® lasts at least a year and probably much longer. In theory, this is because the amped-up fibroblasts keep making the skin's natural matrix of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid.
What does it cost? Start to finish -- from skin cell retrieval to lab processing to injection -- $3,000 to $3,500, depending on how many vials of laViv you need. Seems pricey, but consider that other wrinkle fillers have to be redone once a year or more often.
Why you may want to skip it? If immediate gratification is in order, such as a big reunion coming up in 2 weeks, opt for a faster-acting filler. It may take 3 to 4 months for laViv® to lay down new collagen and make wrinkles disappear. Also, a big-deal volumizer like fat or the synthetic injectable Sculptra may be a better choice for those with facial hollows and a desire for the full contours of youth.
Who can do it? Any doctor who has undergone laViv's training program. To find one, go to www.mylaviv.com, which will post a "physician finder" beginning some time in October.
Stay Tuned for Two New Fillers
Other live-cell wrinkle fillers that are riding the "self-donor" wave include the stem-cell facelift, a bit of a misnomer since it involves a needle, not a scalpel. Your skin doc or plastic surgeon withdraws fat from your hips or tummy. Since abdominal fat is teaming with stem cells, which stimulate collagen production and repair sun damage, the plumper fills in sags and lines long-term.
Less widely available in the aesthetic world is platelet-rich plasma therapy (PRP), known by the much catchier name, "Vampire Kiss." In this treatment borrowed from orthopedics (where PRP is used to repair tendons), a person's own blood is withdrawn and spun in a centrifuge to separate out the platelets. These blood cells contain growth factors that spur fibroblasts to produce collagen. The platelet "broth" is then injected into wrinkles, with the desired results visible in about 6 weeks.
All of the above treatments are legally available in this country, but it's important to find a physician with experience in the procedure and who is, of course, board certified. To find one, consult aad.org or plasticsurgery.org.
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