New procedure allows patients to use their own fat in reconstruction surgery.
Nancy Klein found out she had breast cancer exactly one year after her mother got the same diagnosis. Nancy decided to have a double mastectomy, thinking about just one thing.
Nancy Klein says "I was just thinking about honestly my daughter, just kept coming into my mind. I would think of her and have all these visions of her going to high school and getting married and I just knew that when I didn't see myself in that vision it wasn't an option."
But she says after the surgery, reality sunk in.
Nancy Klein says "Then the bandages came off. And that's kind of where things got a little rocky for me."
So she went to Dr. Larry Pollack who told her about an implant reconstruction involving her own fat.
Nancy Klein says "so you're saying I can take fat from another part of my body and transfer it to get a better appearance and I just couldn't believe it, I was like when is your next availability."
Fat transplants are not new, but Dr. Pollack says they've recently gotten a lot better. For Nancy, he used a new system developed by a company called Cytori.
A patient's tissue is removed often from the stomach or hips, then injected into a bag, lined with filters. The tissue's washed, removing contaminants. The now much purer tissue is injected back into the patient.
Dr. Larry Pollack, a plastic Surgeon, says "you don't just inject a blob of fat, you inject little threads and those little threads will very quickly get blood supply and survive."
Cytori president Marc Hedrick calls it a big improvement, but he thinks his company has come up with something even better.
Cytori President Marc Hedrick says "the next step is to enrich the fat graft with the patient's own stem and regenerative cells."
And so Cytori has invested $250 million dollars over the past decade to create this machine. A patient's fat is added, washed, then the so-called celution system does this.
Marc Hedrick says "so we're just taking those normal cells out that happen to be stem cells in many cases, pull those out, concentrate then and add them back to the fat tissue."
Hedrick says that makes the tissue even better and long lasting. The company hopes to eventually get FDA approval.
That didn't happen in time for Nancy, but she's doing just great. So's her mom. She just finished the "3-day for the cure" walk and wants other women to know there's a way to feel good about themselves about breast cancer surgery.
Nancy Klein says "I no longer have those feelings when I look in the mirror and so I can go on living my life and being just happy with the way I look."
Right now, the celution system's approved in Europe for breast cancer reconstruction and imported into Japan too.
Also, Cytori just presented a study to the American Heart Association in which the system was used on patients with chronic heart disease. There's also hope it could one day help stroke victims and people with liver failure.