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Scientists report taking first steps in growing artificial breasts.

Scientists have taken the first steps in growing artificial breasts, successfully carrying out the first human trials of laboratory-grown replacement nipples.

There is fierce competition among American biotech companies to be the first to capture the lucrative market for replacement breasts for cancer patients and those demanding cosmetic breast enlargement. Furthest ahead with research is Curis of Cambridge, MA, which developed the nipple technology, constructing the tissue from cartilage derived from purified pig ear cells. The company intends to create the breast using immature cells from a woman's own body, expanding the tissue in a laboratory on a biodegradable scaffold and then injecting the expanded cell mass into the breast.

"We are investigating how to use a material which is compatible with the body so as to enhance the ability of the host tissue to grow and maintain a natural shape," said Craig Halberstadt, MD of the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC, who heads a team that is working with Curis on the project. "We are focusing on starting with smaller implants and gradually building up to larger ones, using a minimally invasive approach to implant the tissue back into the patient to reconstruct defects. It will have to be done in several stages because of the time it takes to establish a blood supply."

It is estimated that sales of the artificial breasts could exceed 250,000 a year, with demand expected to soar when natural tissue expansion can be used instead of controversial silicone or saline implants. Joseph Vacanti, MD, a Massachusetts surgeon and the researcher who pioneered the work on replacement breasts before selling the technology to Curis, now is exploring ways to reproduce complex internal organs, such as kidneys and livers.

"We think this research on regenerating tissue can be applied to vital organs," Vacanti said. "The individual components are all commercially available. The largest problem is not growing the cells but creating a good enough blood supply to maintain a really large tissue mass."
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Comment:Scientists report taking first steps in growing artificial breasts.
Publication:Transplant News
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 6, 2000
Words:330
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