- Women's Health
Mastectomy Patients Could Regrow Breasts
Australian Scientists Regrow Breasts
November 12, 2009
Australian scientists say they have found a way for women who lose their breasts to cancer to re-grow them within a year. Yes, regrow them.
In Australia mastectomy patients typically wait for years to have tax-payer funded breast implants...that or get by without them. The new method, offered as an alternative by the Bernard O'Brien Institute of Microsurgery in Melbourne, is to insert breast-shaped hypoallergenic chambers beneath the skin of the chest where breast tissue normally resides.
The chambers are then seeded with fat stem-cells from the patient and supplied with blood from a nearby blood vessel.
Over time, since "nature abhors a vacuum", the patients body continues to grow fat cells within the chamber. The chamber itself is biodegradable and breaks down as the fat cells fill the void. So far the method has been tried via animal studies, but the institute plans to start human trials next year. Scientists estimate that regrowth for the average patient would be six to eight months.
"We have tested it in several animal models so we have done enough testing preclinical to be confident now to take the step with human trials," said Dr Phillip Marzella, the institute's chief operating officer.
"We are starting what is called a prototype trial in the next three to six months -- a proof of principle trial with about five to six women just to demonstrate that the body can regrow its own fat supply in the breast," Marzella told local radio.
The procedure relies almost solely on the body's own tendency to fill voids, however, a gel can also be injected into the shell to stimulate growth.
Initially, trials will involve women with partial mastectomies. Because a partial leaves a defect in symmetry the trials will attempt to regrow tissue in the affected area rather than a whole breast.
Naturally, scientists are looking forward to other organ regeneration.
"We are hoping to move on to other organs using the same principle -- a chamber that protects and contains cells as they grow and as they restore their normal function," said Dr Phillip Marzella.
Breast Implant Replacement
If the trials are successful this method could also replace implantation of saline filled silicone implants or silicone only implants with real breast tissue and fat from the patient's own body.
The upside, of course, is that the process is no more invasive than the mastectomy itself, and there is very little chance of rejection.
From current trials to solely cosmetic replacement (or enlargement) could be as much ten years away if these trials are successful.