What if a breast implant could deter the recurrence of breast cancer? Researchers at Brown University, who dared to ask whether nanotechnology could benefit breast reconstruction patients, have created a breast implant that may one day revolutionize the field of breast reconstruction. Their results have been published in the journal Nanotechnology.
According to ScienceDaily, one in eight women in the US will develop breast cancer, and many will undergo mastectomy as a result. Breast reconstruction surgery, which restores the appearance of the breast, often uses an implant to provide the desired contour. “Cancer is an elusive target, though, and malignant cells return for as many as one-fifth of women originally diagnosed.”
Biomedical scientists wondered whether implant materials could reduce the rate of relapse. Their results have been promising. By creating a “bed-of-nails” surface at an extremely tiny scale, they have created an implant that effectively prevents cancer cells from thriving, while attracting healthy cells. The new implant uses a common polymer that has already been approved by the US government.
“We’ve created an (implant) surface with features that can at least decrease (cancerous) cell functions without having to use chemotherapeutics, radiation, or other processes to kill cancer cells,” Thomas Webster, one of the study authors, told ScienceDaily.
The implant’s surface was created with adjoining, 23-nanometer-high pimples, which are designed to discourage the production of a certain protein. This protein, VEGF, is vital to the production of endothelial breast-cancer cells. The study found that there was a 15 percent reduction in VEGF concentration at the site of the implant.
Webster believes that these results likely arise from the stiffness of breast-cancer cells. “When they come into contact with the bumpy surface,” writes ScienceDaily, “they are unable to fully wrap themselves around the rounded contours, depriving them of the ability to ingest the life-sustaining nutrients that permeate the surface.”
While cancer-deterring implants will likely not see the market for many years, this story offers just a small window into the cutting edge of biomedicine.
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