Eternal youth doesn't come cheap. No one knows this better than a Los Angeles woman who underwent a non-FDA approved cosmetic eye surgery using stem cells. Unwanted side effects include: pain, a clicking sound in her eyelid "like a tiny castanet snapping shut" and spontaneous bone growth in the surrounding flesh. Gross.
A fairly new procedure, the initial surgery was essentially a face-lift using adult stem cells from the patient's abdominal fat. In this particular case, doctors injected the area around her eyes with mesenchymal stem cells, which can turn into cartilage, fat or — unfortunately for her — bone. The surgery uses calcium hydroxylapatite as a filler, and it's this mineral that caused the stem cells to turn into bones.
Cosmetic procedures such as this one are becoming increasingly common. They also don't require FDA approval, which means they go untested. Stem cells' potential is incredibly exciting, but there hasn't been enough research for their effects to be fully understood. According to Paul Knoepfler, a cell biologist at the University of California, Davis:
These aren't your typical drugs. You can stop taking a pill and the chemicals go away. But if you get stem cells, most likely you will have some of those cells or their effects for the rest of your life. And we simply don't know everything they are going to do.
As of today, the offending bones have been removed, and the woman is doing well. But some living stem cells may still be lingering in her face, meaning there's always a chance that a surprise appendage is lingering just around the corner. [Scientific American via PopSci]