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Disclaimer: I resisted all titles related to milkshakes, slurries, soups, or other crass comments. And I’ll have you know, it took great restraint on my part!

So, today Sean walks into the office, and I swear, he might as well have been clapping and squealing in delight. I am a wise enough woman at this point to automatically brace myself, before asking “whaaat?”, with appropriate caution. He told me, with glee, that he’d just found a story he knew I’d have to blog about, and proceeded to point me to this.

Honestly? I think he just wanted to see my reaction as I read the article. I’m pretty sure my face went from amusement to shock to flat out, jaw hanging open astonishment.

You see, scientists in Japan are claiming to be able to naturally increase the size of a woman’s breast two sizes, using nothing but her stomach fat and stem cells. The fat and the stem cells (and it’s never specified what sort, or from where these cells are produced) are mixed together into a super-enriched stem cell fat…soup, which is then injected into the breast and left to, in theory, grow. Grow up to two sizes.

I remain skeptical. Where are these stem cells coming from? Why are they growing in the fatty tissue of the breast? What tells them to “go”, and where are they getting the “stop” signal from? Since when did stem cells work like this, anyway?

Frankly, it sounds like someone is using a typical method of breast enlargement – injection of one’s own fat – and is simply refining (blending?) the fat mixture into smaller suspended particles before injecting it back into the body. It’s playing on the fears of silicone, the promise of science, and the allure of having “natural” artificial breasts – all at what I’m sure is a very pretty price.

This is one of the few times I regret not having video capability – I suspect the entire thing would be even more stunning if you could see both my reaction, and Sean’s.

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2 Responses to “why go silicone when you can go stem cell?”

  1. on 13 Feb 2007 at 8:47 pmthomas

    Wa hoo! A stem cell post that I can weigh in on!

    The story you refer to is best presented at the BBC news site, and by this stem cell scientist’s analysis, you have summarized the potential ‘benefit’ and limitations well. Fat transplant to the breast has been done before, so the novel strategy here is the stem cell enrichment.

    It turns out that we all have a good number of apidogenic stem cells. (Americans’ are more proliferative, but for environmental reasons!) In fact, fat is one of the most dynamic tissues in the body. Just look to fluctuating body profiles between say Thanksgiving and spring break for evidence of this. For the spare tire to wax and wane as it does, there needs to be a population of stem cells to dial up or down whatever the caloric (im)balance may be.

    Enter the fat stem cells. Researchers at (can you guess where?) UCLA have been trumpeting the glory of fat stem cells to form blood vessels (which they might) muscle cells (it’s a long shot), and heart and nerve cells (wha?) for 5 years now. If they have tried implanting these guys in humans, it’s been independent of federal money and IRB guidance, and to my knowledge has not been published yet. In any case, this stem cell enrichment is not as much waving of the hands as you think it is. I would like to see a methods section, though!

    So am I surprised that some Japanese surgeons have tried this already? No.

    Do I think it’s a scientific breakthrough? No.

    Should the millions of women that get elective breast surgery every year choose this over silicone? No.

    Is the story interesting? Yes – In addition to the pop culture attention this news will get, (When will E! pick this one up?) I actually think that any ‘stem cell therapy’ should at least get a chance to be reviewed for scientific merit.

  2. on 18 Feb 2007 at 1:40 pmholy fool

    In fact, fat is one of the most dynamic tissues in the body. Just look to fluctuating body profiles between say Thanksgiving and spring break for evidence of this.
    Wait, it’s supposed to fluctuate? Where’s my mirror?!

    Ahem.

    Seriously, thank you, Thomas – this answers a lot of questions that I don’t think the initial article covered at all, and makes the concept clearer, if no less ridiculous.

    While I’m always grateful when the news covers anything relating to science and biotech, I’ve started visibly wincing at the errors, the missed information, (not to mention the misinformation), and the lack of rigorous analytic thought applied to whatever is being discussed. I have to wonder at the benefit of covering the story, if all that happens is people take away continuing, false notions of what science can do.

    it’s been independent of federal money and IRB guidance, and to my knowledge has not been published yet
    Independent of IRB guidance? Seriously? That’s…amazingly short-sighted.

    I wonder if they got any of the CIRM money handed out this week. I would hope it came with the string of IRB approval and published results…

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