Experts are hoping that stem cells will be the next breakthrough in breast reconstruction. CBS News Medical Correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton recently covered the topic on the CBS Early Show, explaining that stem cells and the body’s own fat could be used to essentially re-grow breast tissue.
“A patient’s own fat and stem cells are combined in the lab,” Ashton said. “Growth factors are added. It’s then injected into a biodegradable chamber in the breast. A blood supply is attached to feed these cells, and in about six to 12 months that tissue then creates the form and shape of a breast.”
While this could be a future alternative to implants for reconstruction, Ashton did point out a possible caveat: “They [experts] told me the big concern here is that, as this tissue and this fat cell is being stimulated with growth factors to grow and develop, the concern is that you don’t re-stimulate the cancer cells.”
While the procedure is not approved by the FDA and there are no clinical trials yet, experts are hopeful that in the next five years it could be done in the U.S.
Ashton pointed out that stem cells are “found in a variety of sources. They can be found in embryos. They can also be found in umbilical cord blood and in our own bone barrow. What makes them so powerful is these are naive cells that can then go on to become almost anything, and that’s what’s so important.”
If stem cell breast reconstruction proves to be a viable option in the future, Ashton could see it being used to re-grow a small portion of the breast that is removed, when the patient doesn’t require a full or double mastectomy.
“This is the major focus in plastic surgery and reconstructive surgery now — using stem cells to re-grow tissue,” Ashton said.