Adult Stem Cells Helping Women With Breast Reconstruction

Bioethics   |   David Prentice   |   Jan 27, 2011   |   2:38PM   |   Washington, DC

An announcement recently from Japanese universities that they are establishing an institute to use adult stem cells for breast reconstruction is welcome news, recognizing the current uses as well as future potential of adult stem cells for patients.

The most common methods of breast reconstruction are silicon injections and fat implants, which pose risks of infection as well as long-term maintenance. The proposal is to use adult stem cells from fat tissue (sometimes termed adipose-derived stem cells) of the patient to re-grow breast tissue.

There is already an ongoing approved clinical trial in Europe for breast cancer patients to use adipose-derived stem cells for breast reconstruction, and interim results have been very promising.

Doctors in Australia and in the U.K. had also previously announced clinical trials for the adult stem cell technique.

While it might sound humorous, adult stem cells from liposuctioned fat are a very useful source of stem cells for reconstructive surgery. They’ve already been used in other trials as well, but that’s for another story.

Growing new breast tissue from adult stem cells is not so far-fetched. In 2006, two groups showed that they could isolate mouse mammary gland stem cells, and regenerate an entire mammary gland from a single adult stem cell. (In the interests of equal time, another group showed in 2008 in mice the generation of a prostate from a single adult stem cell.) Of course, there are those who consider cosmetic breast augmentation the more significant application…

Adult stem cells continue to prove their superior capabilities for tissue repair in patients.