A practitioner holding up a CoolSculpting device to view how cold the device settings are.

How Did CoolSculpting Begin?

Posted on June 9, 2023 by Dr Elenora Fedoneko

CoolSculpting is a non-invasive fat reduction procedure that uses cryolipolysis to freeze and destroy fat cells in targeted areas of the body. The origin story behind CoolSculpting is quite unusual and starts with a serendipitous observation made in the 1970s.

A phenomenon called “popsicle panniculitis” has been noted in the medical literature. It described how some children who regularly ate frozen popsicles developed swelling, inflammation in their cheeks, and ultimately dimples. It was discovered that this was a result of the cold popsicles freezing and damaging fat cells in their cheeks, leading to inflammation and eventual elimination of some of the fat cells.

Drs. Rox Anderson and Dr. Dieter Manstein of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, a teaching affiliate of Harvard Medical School, started to investigate this phenomenon in 2007. They discovered that under carefully controlled conditions, subcutaneous fat cells are more vulnerable to the effects of cold than surrounding tissue. Equally importantly, unlike most other cells in the body, fat cells do not regenerate. This means that once eliminated, fat cells do not grow back.

They formed a company (EHR International) and put their energies into developing a medical device that could achieve the required cooling under carefully controlled and reproducible conditions. They named the process of killing fat cells by freezing “cryolipolysis,” meaning “breaking apart fat by cold.” An important part of their research was to identify the optimal conditions for killing fat cells while minimizing any possible damage or inflammation in adjacent skin cells.

Their device applied the principle of cryolipolysis to selectively freeze and eliminate fat cells without damaging the skin or surrounding tissues, leading to the creation of the procedure known as CoolSculpting.

Further research continued into discovering which body areas could best be treated using CoolSculpting, which resulted in the development of specialized applicators used to efficiently target fat deposits in different parts of the body.

Zeltiq Aesthetics acquired the CoolSculpting trademark and technology in 2010 and continued development. More recently, Allergan acquired Zeltiq in 2017; they have continued to develop CoolSculpting technology and today market it for use by licensed healthcare professionals.

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She completed her Residency at the University of Virginia School of Medicine in 1998 and has since specialized in Cosmetic Dermatology.

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