Scientists devise safer way to reconstruct breasts

Sydney: Reconstruction of breasts will now become a lot safer and more realistic, thanks to real tissues grown on a scaffold and then implanted in a new technique.

"With scaffolding you can get the shape and form right from the beginning, using a small amount of tissue around one cubic centimetre from the patient," said Dietmar W. Hutmacher, professor of biomedical innovation at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT).

"The scaffold is biodegradable. After two to three years it will dissolve, whereas silicone implants, the most common material used in breast reconstruction surgery, stays forever and can cause a lot of long-term problems such as fibrous encapsulation," he said.

Hutmacher recently used computer aided design (CAD) to produce moulds accurately modelled on a laser scan of a patient`s healthy breast, according to a university statement.

It was conducted as part of a research project with engineers and surgeons in Singapore and Germany. They successfully used the moulds during tissue reconstruction operations.

"Previously the surgeon would do everything by eye and feel. With the mould they have a physical template to check out the exact shape and tissue volume needed for the
reconstruction surgery," said Hutmacher.

The CAD which created the moulds has also been used to create biodegradable 3D scaffolds, on which a patient`s own tissue could be grown.

"When you think about the volume of a breast, to recreate this with randomly shaped tissue removed from elsewhere on a patient`s body is quite difficult. Normally patients have two or three operations to enable the surgeon to correct and get the shape right," Hutmacher added.

Hutmacher is currently testing different materials for the scaffolding. His goal is to have this technology ready for clinical use in three to five years.


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