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Fat stem cells being studied as option for breast reconstruction

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 26 -- Breast cancer survivors might one day avoid the prospect of invasive breast reconstruction surgery, opting instead for an approach that would involve using stem cells derived from their own fat, suggest University of Pittsburgh researchers who are studying the potential these cells may have for regenerating 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 indica
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Contact: Lisa Rossi
RossiL@upmc.edu
412-647-3555
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
26-Oct-2006


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