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Breast reconstruction may be possible with fat stem cells

Breast cancer survivors will be able to do away with invasive breast reconstruction surgery, replaced by an approach involving stem cells //extracted from their own fat, suggest University of Pittsburgh researchers who are investigating the potential these cells may have for renewing new breast tissue.

In animal models, the researchers hope to prove that an injection of fat-derived stem cells that are seeded onto microscopic scaffold structures will enable the production of a durable, replacement soft tissue. The team, led by J. Peter Rubin, M.D., assistant professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, recently received a three-year grant from the National Cancer Institute to further explore this unique approach.

"The surgical options for breast reconstruction involve either the use of implants or a procedure whereby fat tissue taken from another part of the body is shaped into the form of a breast. Neither is ideal nor without risk. The use of adipose- or fat-derived stem cells may represent a better solution for soft tissue reconstruction in breast cancer patients," said Dr. Rubin, who also is co-director of the Aesthetic Surgery Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

The use of stem cells to treat disease or regenerate tissue is believed to hold promise because of their potential to develop into different specialized cell types. Indeed, when exposed to specific conditions in the laboratory, fat-derived stem cells have been shown to differentiate into cells characteristic of those from tissues such as fat, bone, cartilage, nerve, muscle and blood vessels.

Dr. Rubin and his colleagues are focusing their efforts on an approach that involves combining the fat-derived stem cells with microscopic beads composed of a type of extracellular matrix (ECM) that has regenerative properties. Preliminary results indicate that the stem cells can easily attach thems
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