The procedure, called Celution, takes just over an hour and involves injecting a ‘supercharged’ fat mixture into breast tissue. Fat is taken using a minor liposuction procedure under local anesthetic from a patient’s buttocks or belly. The useful stem cells are separated out, and an hour later, a dose of stem and regenerative cells is packaged into a cartridge ready for re-injection, without any culture or manipulation. The breasts then enlarge over about six months.
The enlarged breasts, which can be up to two cup sizes bigger, look more natural than surgically enhanced breasts and the process is not expensive. ‘There is a dirty little secret in the stem cell therapeutics,’ says Cytori’s president and founder Marc Hedrick. ‘Nobody talks about how expensive it is.’ But at a few thousand pounds per cartridge, the Cytori system is no more expensive than conventional surgery.
The idea of using fat to reconstruct parts of the body is not new. But breast reconstructions have failed in the past because fat tends to be reabsorbed. This problem was overcome by mixing fat-derived stem cells from the Celution system with the patient’s own fat.
Cytori Therapeutics initial focus will be on reconstructive surgery in breast cancer patients. ‘The ‘supercharged’ fat graft survives really well and fills in the volume defect left by partial mastectomy,’ says Kai Pinkernel, Cytori’s Head of R&D. Exactly how the defects are repaired is unclear, however. They may be churning out growth factors that coax blood vessels to grow and nurture new tissue. Clinical trials involving breast cancer patients are underway.
The process was approved recently in Germany, which means that it is legal across the EU. But clinicians will have to wait until clinical trials end in early 2008 before they can recommend the procedure to their patients.
Hannah Cole | alfa
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