It may soon be possible for women around the world to regrow their breasts with little more than the cells from their own bodies, according to doctors in the UK and Australia.
The breast reconstruction technique involves implanting a plastic mould beneath the skin and then injecting the area with the patient’s own stem cells and body fat. During the following months, the stem cells and fat grow until new breast tissue is formed. Aside from breast reconstruction, the technique could have applications in cosmetic surgery, as patients who find saline and silicone implants unsuitable would have a new alternative available to them.
Stem cells are cells that have the potential to regenerate tissue over a lifetime and can adapt into other types of cells. In this case, the researchers were able to position stem cells so that they would form new breast tissue. These stem cells were drawn from the patient’s own body and cultured in a laboratory. Afterward, they were combined with fat removed from the patient’s thigh or stomach, and then injected into the patient’s breast.
The Sunday Express reports that the procedure has been successful for patients in the UK and Australia.
“We hope the technology will have a significant impact around the world,” says Professor Wayne Morrison of Melbourne University, who reportedly performed the technique on two patients last month. “There are a lot of women who don’t have reconstructive surgery for whatever reason or have silicone breast implants but this will give them their own tissue back.”
However, it will be at least a few years before this procedure will be available in the United States, says CBS News medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton. “Right now, in this country, this is not FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-approved. There are no clinical trials going on yet. But [experts] are very hopeful that, in the next five years, we can see this being done in this country.”