By Daniel Martin
'Natural' breast enlargement through stem cell therapy is said to be an improvement on implants
A new stem cell technique to enlarge the size of a woman's breasts while reducing the size of her waistline is to made available in Britain for the first time.
The revolutionary new treatment involves taking stem cells from spare fat on the stomach or the thigh, and then growing them in a woman's breasts.
Surgeons say the result gives a more natural look than many of the synthetic implants used by showbusiness stars like Pamela Anderson.
But the stem cell process can only create an increase of one cup size, although supporters expect bigger breasts later as the technique improves.
Around a dozen British women have already had their breasts repaired with stem cells after having cancerous cells removed. But this is the first time the process will be used on healthy women.
Professor Kefah Mokbel, a consultant breast surgeon at the London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace hospital, will treat 10 patients from May.
By the end of the year, he says private patients will be able to pay for the procedure, which he expects to cost around £6,500.
He said stem cell treatment would produce more natural looking breasts than silicone implants.
'This is a very exciting advance in breast surgery,' he said. 'Breasts treated with stem cells feel more natural because this tissue has the same softness as the rest of the breast..
'Implants are a foreign body. They are associated with long-term complications and require replacement. They can also leak and cause scarring.'
Stem cells are primitive cells which have the power to turn into any tissue of the body - organs, skin and blood.
However, although the new technique will increase volume, it will not provide firmness and uplift. For this reason, only modest augmentations are possible at present, although Professor Mokbel plans to carry out research to see if bigger enlargements are possible.
'We are optimistic we can easily achieve an increase of one cup size,' he said. 'We cannot say yet if we can achieve more. That may depend on the stem cells we can harvest.'
Under the special new technique developed in Japan, surgeons will extract spare fat from a woman's thighs or stomach, from which they will extract some stem cells.
These cells will be mixed with another batch of fat before being injected into the breast. It will then take a few months before the breast achieves its desired shape.
Surgeons have tried injecting plain fat into breasts before in a bid to increase size, but have found it difficult to maintain a blood supply to the new tissue. Stem cells however encourage the growth of blood vessels to ensure a sufficient supply is maintained.
The technique has been available in Japan for six years. Professor Mokbel says that after carrying out about 30 procedures, he should be able to offer the procedure to private patients.
Some experts warn that stem cells should not be used in healthy women until large-scale trials in cancer patients have shown that the new policy is safe.
Eva Weiler-Mithoff, a consultant plastic surgeon at Canniesburn hospital in Glasgow, has treated at more than 10 British cancer patients with the technique and says it should not be extended to healthy women.She said that while breast cancer patients regularly attend follow-up appointments, young women who have had cosmetic surgery are less likely to do so - meaning complications could be missed.