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Fat grafting is an appealing option for breast reconstruction because it uses natural tissue with low surgical risk. Unfortunately, up to 70% of the fat injected into the chest disappears after surgery; patients need multiple surgeries to achieve a successful reconstruction. Doctors don’t know why there is such a high loss of injected fat.
Dr Ineke Meredith, a surgeon at Wellington Hospital, will use a $60,000 BCFNZ grant to kick-start a study of how fat-derived stem cells can affect breast reconstructions. The study will use MRI to assess affect graft uptake and retention in a small group of patients, and will also look at inflammatory response in stem cells and their ability to grow new blood vessels. Dr Meredith hopes that as a result of this study, we’ll understand how manipulating the cellular biology of fat stem cells can improve fat retention in breast reconstructions. Improved fat retention could dramatically reduce the number of operations patients need to have.