January 4 1998
Scientists build living breasts
By Lois Rogers
SCIENTISTS have pioneered a revolutionary technique to
grow breast tissue using cells from a woman's own body.
The treatment is to be offered to breast cancer victims as a
natural and safe alternative to silicone implants.
The development will revolutionise the treatment for
women who suffer disfiguring tumour surgery or
mastectomies and transform the cosmetic surgery industry.
Scientists in Boston, Massachusetts, have already grown
nipples and associated tissue from human cartilage cells;
the first clinical trials in which nipples will be transplanted
onto human patients are to begin later this year. Further
trials involving larger replacement sections of breast tissue
are planned to follow within 12 months. The researchers
predict whole breast transplants within five years.
The tissue engineers working on the project also expect to
be able to recreate the complex function of lactation and
produce a later version of the breast which will be capable
of making milk.
The regrown nipples, which have a natural firmness and
projection, take several weeks to grow. They are
produced from a small sample of fat and blood vessel cells
taken from the buttock or thigh. The cells are seeded onto
an artificial pre-shaped scaffolding of polymer plastic.
Growth factors are added to promote cell division, and
each cell reproduces itself once every 24 hours.
Once the scaffolding is full, cell division slows. The
polymer, which is similar to the material used for dissolving
stitches in the body, then begins to disappear, leaving a
completely natural section of tissue with its own blood
supply, replacing cells only as needed. Because it is
created from a woman's own body there is no problem of
the implant being rejected.
The project is being run by Reprogenesis, an American
company based in Boston, with university research teams
at the forefront of tissue engineering in Ann Arbor,
Michigan, and Charlotte, North Carolina.
The company intends the replacement breasts, which will
also be offered for the cosmetic breast market, to be
available within five years. "Our initial intention is to
provide an option for breast cancer patients, but the
method could be used for cosmetic reconstructions and it
has generated a lot of interest," said Shawn Stovall, the
David Mooney, assistant professor of chemical engineering
at the University of Michigan, said the innovation was the
first of its kind.
"We are growing a soft tissue that can replace a soft tissue.
The key element of this technology is that it uses a
woman's own cells and a biodegradable scaffolding or
matrix," he said.
Britain has one of the highest breast cancer rates in the
world. Every year 26,000 new cases are diagnosed and
about 10,000 of them require removal of a whole breast or
a large section of tissue. At present many patients resist
having replacements because they fear surgery or the
potential side effects from silicone implants, the principal
synthetic material used for breast reconstruction.
Ian Fentiman, professor of surgical oncology at Guy's
hospital in London, warned that the American researchers
would have to ensure they did not "re-seed" the cancer
cells by growing breasts from a woman's own tissue.
However, he added: "Anything which increases the options
has to be a good idea. The first question women ask is
about the dangers of silicone."
Continuing anxiety over silicone led the government to
commission a panel of scientists to review the evidence of
damage for a third time. Silicone implants can harden or
leak; they have also been linked to cancer, multiple
sclerosis and arthritis.
The British market for breast surgery is worth at least =A32m
a year. Many believe demand will soar if cancer patients
and those seeking an enhanced profile are offered a safe
and natural alternative to silicone.
Margo Cameron, who runs Silicone Support UK for
women with implants, said: "I get calls every week from
women who have been disfigured by cancer surgery or
who suffer torment from being flat-chested. They are all
desperate to know if there is anything that doesn't contain
Here's a related article:
UMMC Tissue Engineering Efforts Expands
BIOTECH DEAL PAVES WAY FOR DEVELOPMENT OF "TISSUE PAINT"
Technology could create alternative to breast implants
WORCESTER, Mass. (Nov. 12, 1996) - The University of Massachusetts
Medical Center has entered a biomedical research partnership with
a Massachusetts tissue engineering company to further develop
cutting-edge technology for growing human tissue in the laboratory
-- and to explore its potential uses in surgical procedures ranging
from breast reconstruction to orthopedic surgery.
Officials today announced the signing of licensing and research
agreements between the University of Massachusetts and
Reprogenesis, Inc. A Boston-based firm, Reprogenesis is at the
forefront of the biotechnology industry in researching the use of
laboratory-grown cartilage -- as well as other kinds of tissue --
in the treatment of injury and disease.
Under the agreements, UMMC will receive a $100,000 upfront license
fee; up to $2.3 million in milestone payments that will be made
as clinical trials are initiated and as tissue engineered products
reach the commercial market; $850,000 over three years in sponsored
research support; and royalties on product sales.
The research, to be conducted in UMMC's Tissue Engineering
Laboratory, will be led by Charles A. Vacanti, MD, professor and
chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at UMMC and one of the
nation's top tissue engineering scientists. Vacanti's success in
growing an ear from human cartilage cells -- considered an
important advancement in tissue engineering -- has drawn widespread
national and international media coverage during the past year.
"This agreement represents yet another important milestone
in UMass Medical Center's continuing development as a world-class
academic health center," said Aaron Lazare, MD, chancellor/dean at
UMMC. "Dr. Vacanti is a pioneer in the field of tissue
engineering, and the partnership we've forged with Reprogenesis
is a sterling example of how we use the intellectual resources
and research expertise of UMMC to advance biomedical science,
improve clinical care and bolster the state's economy."
The agreements with Reprogenesis give the company the exclusive
rights to develop, manufacture and sell a technology known as
tissue paint -- a tissue engineering process developed by Vacanti
in which autologous cells are harvested, grown in the laboratory,
and then "painted" on various body cavities and organ
surfaces. Vacanti's initial research with this technology has
produced encouraging results.
The potential clinical applications of Vacanti's tissue engineering
technology will be examined in seven specific areas -- breast
surgery; orthopedic surgery; cosmetic surgery; urology; skin and
wound care; cardiovascular disease; and abdominal medicine.
"Reprogenesis is poised to emerge as a leader among biotechnology
companies in the development of tissue engineering technology
and products,: Vacanti said. "I'm honored to have the opportunity
to work with a Massachusetts company in a research and development
endeavor that may produce a variety of new clinical applications
for this technology, most notably in orthopedic and reconstructive
Reprogenesis has been focusing on creating a substitute for breast
implants from a patient's own cells and on using tissue-engineered
cartilage in the treatment of urological disorders.
The UMass-Reprogenesis agreement is the third public-private
biotechnology partnership in recent months built upon the research
expertise of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center.
University officials previously announced:
a multi-million-dollar agreement with Smith & Nephew Endoscopy
of Andover -- one of the world's foremost producers of minimally
invasive surgical devices -- to jointly develop a center for
research in endoscopic surgery at UMass-Worcester.
a $42 million licensing agreement with Pasteur Meriuex-Connaught
-- one of the world's largest manufacturers of vaccines -- for
the development of a new technology for producing vaccines.
All three licensing agreements were negotiated by the University
of Massachusetts' Office of Commercial Ventures and Intellectual
Property, which is responsible for licensing and marketing
technologies developed by researchers working at UMMC and at the
four other UMass campuses.
Tissue engineering is a relatively new field in which autologous
human cells are harvested and grown in the laboratory -- with
the ultimate intent of implanting those "engineered"
cells elsewhere in the body and having them grow to form new
functional tissue. Using the tissue engineering process, scientists
have been able to grow human skin, cartilage, ligament, bone and
In addition to the much-publicized cartilage ear, Vacanti has
grown tracheas, ligaments, tendons and bone. He is co-editor and
a member of the executive editorial board of Tissue Engineering,
and the founding president of the international Tissue Engineering
Society (TES). Vacanti will present his tissue engineering work
at the first TES meeting December 13-15 in Orlando, Florida.
Vacanti is also a reviewer for the New England Journal of Medicine,
the Journal of Clinical Anesthesiology and Biomaterials.
He has lectured to medical audiences throughout the country, and
has authored articles on tissue engineering for numerous
publications, including Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Bone
Repair and Regeneration.
One of the University's five campuses, UMass Medical Center is
a dynamic, multifaceted academic health center that includes the
state's only public medical school as well as graduate schools
in biomedical sciences and nursing. UMMC receives more than $60
million annually in federal and private grants, and ranks second
among the 10 public medical schools in the Northeast in research
The good/bad news is that Reprogenesis is currently privately held,
I talked with their General Manager, and he's added me to a mailing
list for company info.
Member, Extropy Institute