Today’s Solutions: February 04, 2023

Though some opt to get breast implants for purely aesthetic concerns, breast implants are also part of the healing process for many breast cancer survivors and individuals in transition. 

Right now the two main kinds of breast reconstruction are silicone implants and flap surgery. Flap surgery is a complex operation requiring a tissue “flap” taken from the stomach, back, or thigh. Breast implants done in this way are known to last longer and give better results. However, most patients prefer silicone implants even though they come with certain disadvantages like not being able to reach body temperature in the cold, and needing to be replaced every decade or so.

The problems with silicone

Silicone can also pose other issues for patients, illustrated by the Allergan scandal in 2019, in which popular textured implants were linked to an increased risk of a rare lymphoma. 

To find a better and safer option for breast implants, some startups are innovating approaches that will remove all the problems silicone presents. Two companies from France, Lattice Medical and Healshape, along with Israel’s CollPlant have created impressive 3D-printed models that are designed to be absorbed by the body entirely.

Alternatives to silicone

Lattice Medical’s product is a 3D-printed cage made of a degradable biopolymer equipped with a small flap placed underneath the breast area that can grow tissue to fill the cage while the cage is absorbed by the body.

“The whole implant is fully degradable,” explains Julien Payen, CEO of Lattice Medical, “so after 18 months, you don’t have any product in your body.”

Lattice Medical’s Matisse implant is scheduled to have its first human trial today, July 11th, in Georgia. 

Healshape is also hoping to start clinical trials of its own 3D-printed soft implant. Rather than a cage, Healshape uses a hydrogel to print a material that can be absorbed by fat cells in around six to nine months. “We expect to start clinical trials in two years’ time,” says CEO of the startup Sophie Brac de la Perriere.

CollPlant’s process is similar to Healshape’s but uses a special collagen bionic extracted from genetically engineered tobacco leaves that produce human collagen. 

If any or all of these methods are safe and successful, it could mean the complete replacement of silicone from breast reconstruction operations. This would effectively erase the constraints and potential health issues that come with silicones.

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