An article in the latest issue of Wired magazine reports on how a biotech company is using breast surgery to advance the field of regenerative medicine. Cytori Therapeutics is trying to use stem cells from fat to help the body rebuild itself, and the firm’s CEO Chris Calhoun says they have 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) from the patient. Next 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 become 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.
Cytori is focusing its technology on breasts because breasts don’t have much function beyond nursing a baby. According to the article: “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.”
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.
Cytori’s system has not yet received FDA approval, so it can’t be marketed in the U.S. (although doctors can purchase it).
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