Pioneering technique for growing new breasts could be available next year

A new therapy that is intended to regrow a woman’s breast from her own cells after a mastectomy could be offered to British patients for the first time next year, The Times has learnt.

A patient trial of the new technique, which induces fat tissue to fill a breast-shaped scaffold implanted under the skin, is being planned for the spring by surgeons at a London hospital.

The initative comes as scientists in Australia announced yesterday that they would start treating women using a similar procedure within six months, the result of successful tests on pigs and mice. 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. The technique, which is expected to regenerate a breast in about eight months, could also be used for breast enlargement, though it will initially be used to treat cancer patients.

Professor Kefah Mokbel, of the London Breast Institute and St George’s Hospital, told The Times that he would seek approval from his ethics committee to try the procedure next month, and hopes to be cleared to start treating patients by next March. The Australian team, led by Professor Wayne Morrison, of the Bernard O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery in Melbourne, has already obtained ethical approval for a trial involving half a dozen women, which will start within six months.

Professor Mokbel said that his first patients would be women who had been cancer-free for at least two years. That is to guard against the possibility of stimulating the growth of cancer cells left over after surgery, which is the chief risk of the treatment. “This is the next step in breast reconstruction surgery,” he said. “It is potentially a very exciting development. I believe it will be successful, and will allow us to regrow a fatty breast that looks and feels more natural.” He added that it should be used only in clinical trials, not least because of the risk of restarting a patient’s cancer.

The technique, which the Australian team has named Neopec, involves removing some of the woman’s own fat cells, and enhancing the concentration of stem cells within them in the laboratory. A biocompatible scaffold is then implanted under the patient’s skin, to create a cavity that matches the shape of her other breast. The stem cell-enhanced fat is injected into the cavity, which the cells divide to fill. The cavity is attached to blood vessels under the arm. The Melbourne team, which has been developing the technology for a decade, has recently tested it on pigs, which grew new breasts within six weeks.

Phillip Marzella, chief operating officer of the Bernard O’Brien Institute, said that the procedure relied on the body’s own behaviour of filling internal voids. “Nature abhors a vacuum, so the chamber itself, because it is empty, tends to be filled in by the body,” he told The Times. “We hope it will have a significant impact around the world. 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. “We also like to think that it would alleviate the shock that a woman feels when she is told she has breast cancer, to know that she could possibly grow her breasts back.”

Dr Marzella said the first trials would involve a scaffold that would have to be surgically removed after the new breast had grown. In the longer run, a biodegradable version could be used. “We also envisage that in ten years’ time this approach could be open to cosmetic surgery and, if the principle works, then it could be used in the nose or other parts of the body for reconstructive surgery.”

The technique will create a new breast entirely composed of fat, without functional breast tissue and milk ducts. Professor Mokbal predicted that it would eventually be possible to regrow more specialised breast tissue. “Though it’s still quite far away, mammary stem cells could be used to regenerate the whole breast, including the nipples and milk ducts,” he said.

Anthony Hollander, professor of tissue engineering at the University of Bristol, who led a team last year that replaced part of a woman’s trachea with stem cells, welcomed the study. “This is a simple concept, and simple very often means good,” he said. Sarah Cant, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “This is an extraordinary piece of early research. that might lead to improved breast reconstruction after surgery. The next stage is to see if this technique will be safe and effective in people and only then can we assess its true potential.”

this is a good news to those that have been affected by breast cancer. and this definitely helps those who wanted bigger boobs.. the most interesting part, this sounds promising enough that it should spur the medical reconstruction of human organs sooner or later. however this is still under testing. lets hope that the tests went well and bring us all good news. article from TimesOnline.

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