Goodbye, saline and silicone implants?

A technique pioneered by Australian scientists would allow a woman to regrow her own breast after a mastectomy.

A new surgical technique intended to regrow a woman’s breast from her own cells after a mastectomy will be tested on women in Australia within six months, according to U.K.’s Times Online.

The Times article reported, “If the trials are successful, the new approach would transform breast reconstruction, offering an alternative to saline and silicone implants that is likely to achieve better cosmetic results and a more natural feel.” Although it could also be used for breast enlargement, it will initially be used to treat cancer patients.

The technique, called Neopec by the Australian team, involves removing some of a woman’s own fat cells and enhancing the concentration of stem cells within them in the laboratory. A breast-shaped scaffold is then implanted under the woman’s skin to create a shape that matches her other breast, and then the stem cell-enhanced fat is injected into the cavity, where the cells divide and expand. The cavity is attached to blood vessels under the arm. The method is expected to regenerate a breast in about eight months. Although the new breast will be made entirely of fat, the researchers predict that it may be possible in the future to regrow breast tissue with mammary stem cells that could regenerate nipples and milk ducts.

Although encouraging, this news comes with many unknowns, said Dr. Richard J. Bleicher, co-director of the Breast Fellowship Program and assistant professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology at Philadelphia’s Fox Chase Cancer Center.

“It is entirely possibly that [this technique] will come to fruition, however, we must be cautious and not give people the impression that this is a reconstruction option that may be available soon,” Bleicher said. He noted that even when it’s available to the public, it is unclear how the body will react to the new scaffolding and stem-cell created fat. Other concerns include the blood supply to nourish such a large volume of tissue, how the reconstruction would respond to an injury and how such women would be screened for development of breast cancer in the future.

“There are many other possible concerns which must be studied extensively,” Bleicher said, “before such a technique is considered a safe alternative to the current options.”

Illustration courtesy of Times Online.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com