September 12, 2011

Computer Designs Breast Tissue

(Ivanhoe Newswire) - Engineers, make way for breast design! A technology usually reserved for designing buildings, bridges and aircraft has now been used to aid breast tissue reconstruction in cancer patients.

Researchers used computer-aided design, CAD, to create an extremely accurate mould of a breast that was used as visual aid to surgeons in tissue reconstruction operations.

With one of the most-promising areas of medicine, tissue engineering, CAD was used to design and produce patient-specific physical framework in which patients´ own cells could be harnessed and grown onto the highly specific framework and then transferred to the affected area.  This avoids the need to transfer tissue from other parts of the body which can cause large scars, blood loss and require five to ten hours of anesthesia.

Study co-author, Professor Dietmar Hutmacher, was quoted saying, "We would take a laser scan of the healthy breast and use the CAD modeling process to design a patient-specific scaffold in silico. We would then produce a scaffold of very high porosity and load it with the patient's own cells in combination with a hydrogel. The construct would then be implanted."

CAD has the ability to work full scale, examine the design from all angles and maintain absolute accuracy.

Three female patients, who suffered from breast cancer, had a 3D mould of their breast produced by 3D laser scanned images that were fed into a piece of CAD-software representing the patient´s breast and surrounding thorax region.  The 3D mould was then used on each of the patients as an operative aid for surgeons who performed autologous tissue reconstructions, the transferring of tissue from another part of the patient´s body.

After each of the operations, the surgeons observed a more perfect shape with a higher degree of symmetry between the breasts while, more importantly, the patients reported a higher satisfaction of the surgery outcomes than the control group, again with respect to shape and symmetry of their breasts.

The long-term aim of the study, however, was on the development of a material that could be used in tissue engineering and it showed that CAD could be an effective way of achieving this.

A function was created using the CAD software that enabled the creation of a mould for any scanned tissue with the ability to independently tailor the porosity and pore size — a property that is essential to the seeding and diffusing of cells throughout the structure and something that limits modern technologies.

“There must be coordination between all key aspects of the tissue engineering process, including the selection of cell source, scaffold material, cellular environment, and means of device delivery in order for the engineering of any tissue to be successful,” Professor Hutmacher was quoted as saying regarding the several components in tissue reconstruction that requires investigation.
An Institute of Physics spokesperson was quoted as saying, "This advance offers hope to women who have undergone mastectomies. It's enlightening to see how a technique, first designed for the construction of buildings, bridges and aircraft, is now being used in medicine."

SOURCE: Biofabrication, published online September 8, 2011