The American scientists have devised a technique that could put an end to reconstructive surgery for women recovering from breast cancer. It is expected that the stem cells derived the patient's own fat would help in regeneration of breast tissue.
In the preliminary 3-year program of animal research, the stem cells will be "seeded" on to scaffold structures that will serve as a platform around which the replacement tissue will grow.
Research leader Dr Peter Rubin, from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said: "The surgical options for breast reconstruction involve either the use of implants or a procedure whereby fat tissue taken from another part of the body is shaped into the form of a breast. Neither is ideal nor without risk.
"The use of adipose or fat-derived stem cells may represent a better solution for soft tissue reconstruction in breast cancer patients."
The adaptability of fat-derived stem cells has been established by previous laboratory experiments.
These cells develop into cells characteristic of fat, bone, cartilage, nerve, muscle and blood vessels on exposure to certain chemical conditions.
The team plans to combine fat-derived stem cells with microscopic beads with regenerative properties.
Initial tests reveal that the stem cells easily adhere to the beads and differentiate into mature fat cells. When these cells are in turn injected into the skin of the lab rats, mounds of tissue are formed by them.
"We need to demonstrate that fat-derived stem cells taken from a breast cancer patient behave no differently than those from other women," Dr Rubin said. "Moreover, our studies will seek to understand what effect, if any, these stem cells may have on cancer cells.
According to experts 200 million stem cells can be obtained from 454 gm of fat removed in a "tummy tuck" operation.