Could breast augmentation and reconstruction lead the way to regenerative medicine? An article in the latest issue of Wired magazine reports on Cytori Therapeutics, a company that is trying to use stem cells from fat to help the body rebuild itself. CEO Chris Calhoun says his firm has figured out a way to augment breasts using stem cell–enriched fat tissue.
Cytori’s process for breast augmentation or breast reconstruction involves using liposuction to get fat cells (usually from the abdomen); then the fat is injected into the company’s Celution System where a centrifuge separates the fat cells from the stem and regenerative cells and prepares the cells for injection. Finally, a surgeon injects the cells into the breast for the augmentation or reconstructive procedure.
The cells don’t work by actually becoming breast tissue; rather the fat cells in the mixture provide volume and the regenerative cells encourage the growth of a blood supply that the fat cells need to survive.
Why has Cytori chosen to focus its technology on breasts? Since they don’t have much function beyond nursing a baby, “the scientific and regulatory hurdles to getting Cytori’s cells into clinical use will be easier to clear for breasts than for other tissue: Breasts simply aren’t as necessary as other organs, so the bar for proving to regulators that the technology works will be lower,” according to the article.
The company has completed almost a decade of trials on cell cultures, lab rodents and now humans. Cytori believes the same technology it is using for breast procedures could be used to regenerate other damaged tissue, such as in the heart or kidneys.
However, Cytori’s system has not been FDA approved, so it can’t be marketed in the U.S., although doctors can purchase it.