Research being carried out by Texan company TeVido BioDevices is considering new methodologies for producing customized breast implants — specifically for reconstructive surgery for women that have undergone mastectomies as a result of breast cancer.
Around 230,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year according to the American Cancer society, and in the UK, Cancer Research reports in the region of 50,000 new cases each year although not all of these will undergo mastectomies. But having researched this issue myself last year for a completely unrelated project, I discovered that, for many women, after a mastectomy, breast reconstruction is a vital part of the healing process — one that leaves scars — physical and emotional. Complete breast reconstruction is a multi-surgery process over many months and sometimes years. Anything that would ease the burden, and improve the physical outcome, even a little bit, would be welcomed.
The TeVido process involves the use of a 3D bioprinter that processes a composite protein material of gelatin and alginate, which are deposited via a modified inkjet type printer on to a gel substrate.
The originator of this research, Thomas Boland, Ph.D., has impressive credentials — he is a co-founder and the CTO of TeVido as well as being the Director of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).
The other TeVido co-founder, Laura Bosworth-Bucher, is an engineer with a background in manufacturing and process design, she explained the existing problems with breast implants for reconstruction: “Fat gets reabsorbed when we want it to stay in place and be predictable.” The TeVido process is looking to overcome this, and according to Laura: “We’re focusing on filling a small tumor void as our first product.” The aim is to prove that this new fat implant will connect with the host and keep it alive with current experimental, tiny implants in mice, with a view to expanding this to larger sizes.
The TeVido process aims to reduce the overall cost of reconstruction surgery as well as minimizing the risk and discomfort for the patient.
In reality, this research is three to four years away from human studies and that is fully dependant on future funding. TeVido did recently win a Phase I SBIR grant amounting to $150,000 to further the research with plans to apply for a Phase II grant later this summer. The researchers are working towards results that will allow the commercialization of this process to the benefit of breast cancer patients. However, there is also the possibility that the technology can be applied successfully for better outcomes with cosmetic surgery.