Japanese researchers have used stem cells to help reshape the breasts of women who have undergone surgery for a breast tumour.
Researchers have for the first time used injections of stem cells derived from the women's own fat to reshape their breasts.
In a small study almost nearly four-fifths of the women who received the injections were satisfied with the cosmetic results.
When a lumpectomy is performed to remove a tumour even though surgeons take out just the tumour and try to avoid damaging the surrounding tissue, the procedures themselves which include radiation to kill any missed cancer cells, can leave a woman with a scarred, misshapen, and cratered breasts.
Dr. Eric Daniels, a surgeon at Cytori Therapeutics says in such cases doctors currently have little to offer women.
Cytori Therapeutics developed the technique which is aimed at women with defects which are too small to make them a candidate for breast implants - these are offered to women who have a breast removed.
Experts say even when surgeons try to rearrange the breast tissue which remains following surgery that in itself involves further surgery and can leave additional scars and is not an ideal solution.
Injections of fat tissue have also been tried, but the fat is often reabsorbed or dies.
Stem cells which are the body's master cells have the potential to form many other types of cells and though the research is in it's infancy, the stem cells are thought to have the ability to stimulate the breast tissue by developing into the cells needed to form new blood vessels.
The study involved 21 women who had undergone a lumpectomy; fat was removed from their abdomens, hips, thighs, or lower backs by liposuction; half was set aside as the main implant material.
The rest of the fat was processed by using Cytori's device, so that only stem cells and other types of tissue capable of regeneration remained.
The stem cell juice was then mixed with the reserved fat and injected into the area of the breast defect in a three hour procedure.
The breast area treated soon swelled from an average thickness of 6 millimeters to 16 millimeters.
Researcher Dr Keizo Sugimachi, president of Kyushu Central Hospital in Fukuoka, Japan, says six months after treatment, 79% of 19 women surveyed were satisfied with the results.
The improvement in breast tissue thickness that was observed at one month, remained the same at six months.
The researchers say should the procedure prove to be both safe and effective, it could help breast cancer victims and possibly replace unreliable implants for women who desire cosmetic enhancement.
Cytori Therapeutics who developed the device which is used in the stem cell treatment was not involved in the study and now plans to undertake two additional studies of the technique next year in Europe and Japan.
The findings which are preliminary, were presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.