More than 300,000 people had liposuction in 2007, and a new study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery shows theres something valuable in all of that unwanted fat—stem cells. Harvesting stem cells from abdomen and thigh fat is easier and less painful than taking them from bone marrow and less controversial than using unwanted embryos.

Eventually, these cells may help doctors heal damaged heart or nerve tissue after heart attacks or strokes, generate new tissue for breast reconstructions, and even reduce lines and wrinkles, says J. Peter Rubin, MD, co-director of the Adipose Stem Cell Center at the University of Pittsburgh. Until then, several biotech companies are said to be developing fat “storage” for consumers.