Explaining the Cellular Characteristics Found in Lipedema Fat

By June 30, 2022 July 8th, 2024 No Comments

Today let’s talk about a paper entitled SVF-derived extracellular vesicles carry characteristic miRNAs in lipedema. It’s a study done by researchers in Austria and it was published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports in April 2020. 

What the study is about

This study was performed in an effort to contribute to objective and consistent diagnostic criteria for lipedema using distinctive cellular characteristics found in lipedema fat. The method used in this study was the extraction of material from fat derived from liposuction surgeries of 3 women with lipedema and 3 healthy women. 

Stromal Vascular Fraction (SVF)

This was a challenging article to get through because I was unfamiliar with some of the terms. SVF stands for Stromal Vascular Fraction. Essentially, this is a cellular extract made in a laboratory from fat tissue. An enzyme is used to separate fat cells from proteins and connective tissue, so the SVF gathered in the end, is not a naturally occurring substance. While most likely all the cells in SVF did mostly exist in the body fat from which they were extracted, they were put together in a different way and the enzyme may have changed them a bit.

MicroRNA (miRNA)

This study also looked at microRNA (written as miRNA). MiRNA plays an important role in regulating which genes will be expressed and which will not. Extracellular vesicles (little messenger ships) are used for communication between cells by delivering special cargo from one cell to another. This messaging using the extracellular vesicles can then control or regulate the physiological condition of the cell that receives the message.

In this study, the researchers are reporting on the unique miRNA found in these messenger extracellular vesicles in SVF from healthy vs. lipedema fat tissue. The miRNA circulating in fat tissue via the extracellular vesicles are known to be involved in metabolic regulation and may contribute to metabolic abnormalities such as increasing or suppressing fat tissue formation and controlling an immune response.

Interestingly, several studies have shown that particular miRNA cargo can be altered in response to stress such as aging or liver impairment. Certainly, miRNA is already used to identify diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases, different cancers, and kidney damage. 

Key Findings of the Study

The authors believe that the unique miRNA found in SVF in lipedema fat may serve as a biomarker for the early identification of lipedema. Another important finding of this study was that all of the unique miRNA found in SVF from lipedema fat have an impact on those processes that are noted as symptoms of lipedema including fat tissue growth which can contribute to the disproportionate lower body fat expansion and fat metabolism, as well as, blood vessel growth which may impact bruising and inflammation.


The authors believe that the findings of this study may contribute to the identification of the potential role of SVF secreted miRNAs in lipedema as well as provide an objective method for the early identification of lipedema. A limitation may be the extensive and complicated process for the extraction of the material to be tested. Even so, this is promising information as we continue to search for a reliable biomarker for the identification of lipedema.

For more updates on the latest research regarding lipedema, check out Lipedema Simplified’s Flash Briefings. It’s our daily mini-podcast where we share tips, tools, and research pertaining to Lipedema.

~ Leslyn Keith, OTD, CLT-LANA
Board President, Director of Research | The Lipedema Project

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