Fat-derived stem cells can be safely used to aid reconstruction of breast tissue after mastectomy as long as there is no evidence of active cancer, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine have suggested.
Plastic surgeons have long moved fat from one part of the body into the breasts for reconstruction, but with some complications and a varying success rate, explained senior author Vera S. Donnenberg, Ph.D., assistant professor of surgery, Pitt School of Medicine.
More recently, they have considered adding stem cells derived from adipose, or fat, tissue (ADSC) or the bone marrow to the transferred fat with the aim of supporting graft integration by enhancing new blood vessel formation.
For the study, the researchers collected adipose tissue that would have been discarded during "tummy tuck" procedures performed by study co-author J. Peter Rubin, M.D., associate professor of surgery, Pitt School of Medicine.
The researchers isolated ADSC from normal fat and mixed them with human breast cancer cells obtained directly from patients. After two weeks in culture they found that ADSC greatly encouraged the growth of tumor cells.
In a followup experiment, the researchers injected small numbers of highly purified active or resting tumor cells under the skin of mice either with ADSC or with previously irradiated tumor cells. The combination of active tumor cells and ADSC led to dramatic tumor growth, while injections of resting tumor cells were not affected by co-injection of either ADSC or irradiated tumor cells.
Their findings are available in Tissue Engineering Part A.