A team of Australian scientists at the Bernard O’Brien Institute announced the development of a surgical technique that may allow women to regrow their breasts after having a mastectomy, the Reuters reported. The scientists hope to create a biodegradable chamber within 24 months, which dissolves inside the body after it fills up.
The procedure involves implant of a chamber underneath the skin and then connect a blood vessel to the tissue that enables it to grow in six to eight months. A patient trial of the new technique planned to start within three to six 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.
Marzella said the procedure relies on the body’s own behaviour of filling internal voids, but a gel-like substance can also be injected to stimulate fat growth.
“Nature abhors a vacuum, so the chamber itself, because it is empty, it tends to be filled in by the body,” he said.
The women in the trial have had a mastectomy or partial mastectomy, but there remains a defect or asymmetry issue with their breasts. The trial will not seek to grow a whole breast, but grow fat in the defected area to prove the procedure is viable, said an Institute report on the procedure.
The regenerative procedure could offer women an alternative to traditional breast reconstruction and implants following a mastectomy, Marzella said, adding the procedure could also be used to help restore other damaged body parts.
“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,” he said.
Australia’s National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre said the new procedure, if successful, would be in an important step forward in dealing with breast cancer.
“It is a real exciting concept in terms of tissue engineering for women who have had a mastectomy,” said Dr Helen Zorbas from the National Breast and Ovarian Cancer Centre.