I first heard about LaViv in an article in Vogue magazine and wasn’t sure whether I felt intrigued or repelled by a new kind of anti-aging treatment that plumps out the nasolabial folds by injections of ones own fibroblasts.
Just a few weeks ago, after a many years, LaViv was approved by the FDA as a a personalized cell-based dermal filler. Although this was a huge milestone, shares in Fibrocell,the company behind LaViv, barely moved. Perhaps investors anticipate that consumers might be a little squeamish about the procedure. Here’s how it works.
A small tissue sample is removed from behind a patient's ear and is then sent to Fibrocell's manufacturing facility. Fibroblasts – cells that synthesizes the extracellular matrix and collagen - are isolated from the sample and are left to “grow in a lab to form a personalized cellular therapy”. What this seems to be mean is that the fibroblasts are multiplied in cell culture, a process that takes 11 to 22 weeks. They are then shipped back to the doctor, and are re-injected into the patient's face.
Being one’s own active ingredient is probably preferable to being injected with Botox, but does it work. It seems to depend on who you ask. In two clinical trials, 421 patients received either three treatments with laViv or three treatments with an injection that did not contain the cells. Six months after the third treatment, 45 to 57 per cent of patients that had LaViv thought they could see an improvement.
This compares 33 per cent in the control group, which goes to show the power of suggestive thinking. Doctors were more glass half empty. They thought the wrinkles’ appearance improved significantly in only 19-33 percent of the patients who received LaViv.
The most common side effect, occurring in two-thirds of patients, were injection site reactions including redness, bruising, swelling, pain and hemorrhage. Expect to pay about $1,000 to $2,000 to create your “personalized cell bank” and then $300 to $500 for each of the three treatment sessions.