Researchers develop soft tissue substitute w…

Researchers develop soft tissue substitute with fewer side effects

If successful in human trials, this product would lessen the need for implants or tissue grafts

A team of plastic surgeons and material scientists has made an important advance in treating the common clinical problem of soft tissue loss. They have invented a synthetic soft tissue substitute that is well tolerated and encourages the growth of soft tissue and blood vessels. This new material retains its shape without being too dense, overcoming challenges with current tissue fillers that tend to be either too soft or not porous enough to let cells move in and start regrowing tissue. A report on this work appears today in Science Translational Medicine.

“As a plastic surgeon, I see patients every day who lose soft tissue like skin, fat and muscle from cancer surgery, trauma or other conditions. Currently our options are limited to implants, which are plagued by fibrosis and other problems, or ‘borrowing’ tissues from elsewhere in the body, which can cause deformity there as well,” says Sashank Reddy, M.D., Ph.D., an instructor in plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the medical director for Johns Hopkins Technology Ventures.

“Nature abhors a vacuum, and soft tissue defects can contract, deform and fill in with scar. In order to reconstruct these defects, we often move fat from one part of the body to another with a process called fat grafting. This is not always successful, as typically half of the grafted fat will die after it’s transplanted, and it’s often hard to predict how well these procedures will work out,” says Justin Sacks, M.D., M.B.A., vice chair of clinical operations and an associate professor of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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