A possibility for regrowing breast tissue?

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A team of Australian researchers are set to begin a clinical trial next year to see if a technique for regrowing breast tissue will prove successful in humans. The novel strategy, which could offer hope to breast cancer patients who have undergone mastectomies as part of treatment, involves placing a “scaffolding” in the breast, and prompting regrowth of existing breast tissue cells to fill the empty space. To prompt tissue growth, the patients’ own muscle cells will be incorporated into a gel that will be introduced into the empty space. The strategy has already proven successful in pigs, and cancer specialists and plastic surgeons alike are hopeful that it may one day be an option for human patients. That possibility hinges on the upcoming trial.

If researchers at Melbourne’s Bernard O’Brien Institute of Microsurgery are able to replicate earlier results in animals in the small group of patients anticipated to participate in the trial, the procedure could be more widely available in as little as three years, according to CBS News medical writer Jennifer Ashton. What’s more, while the first attempt in humans will use a natural material that will later need to be removed to create the space for tissue regrowth, in the future researchers hope to develop a biodegradable scaffolding. If all goes to plan, the entire process of tissue regrowth should take about two years, researchers estimate.