Every year in South Korea, two-hundred tons of fat left over from operations like liposuction become medical waste.
Although it's deemed waste, the fat is actually sought after by cosmetic companies and for medical purposes for active ingredients like collagen and extracellular matrix which can be used for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.
Recognizing the bio-health industry as the next promising sector of the economy, the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety said on Wednesday that the government will soon lay out a comprehensive plan for innovation focused on R&D and deregulation.
Unlike the U.S., South Korea's current laws mean medical waste,… with the exception of placenta,… can only be used for research purposes and cannot be commercialized… limiting the advance of this potential sector.
"For instance, registering human fat for medicinal purposes could take years, while overseas competitors may develop their own technologies and take over the market."
Recycling and reusing the 2-hundred tons of fat could add 18-billion dollars worth of value in the bio-health market.
Another area with a lot of potential value is repurposing old teeth.
Those that would've been thrown away, like wisdom teeth, can be used for bone grafts.
It's a procedure that was invented 11 years ago in South Korea, but doctors are only allowed to use the teeth of the patients themselves.
That goes for dental implants too, which is why so many teeth go to waste and doctors have to find alternatives.
“For dental implants, as of 2017, 80 percent of them are made from cow bones. But if we use human teeth, especially our own or those of others, it'd be much safer and effective because human teeth are made of almost the same stuff as our bones’
Predicted to reach a global market size of up to 10 trillion U.S. dollars by 2022,South Korea’s bio-health industry can further serve the interests of the country’s rapidly aging society as well as provide opportunities for job creation.
Kim Da-mi, Arirang News.