Julien Payen, its president and co-founder, is enthusiastic: a patient, who underwent a mastectomy due to a tumor, will be implanted in a few days, in a Georgian hospital, the prosthesis developed by his company. This is officially the start of the trial, which will take place in three countries: in Georgia therefore, but also in Spain and France. The goal: to test on fifty women the reconstitution of the breast and the good tolerance to the bioprosthesis.
In small premises in the Lille region, sixteen printers manufacture these new kind of prostheses. Attention, they have nothing to do with the prostheses already marketed in silicone, since they are made in a biopolymer composed essentially of lactic acid, which must naturally be absorbed, once in the body, in eighteen months.
The material is first transformed into filament to feed 3D printers, which will produce implants designed to allow the regeneration of adipose tissue.
So far, there are three main ways to replace a breast. Silicone implants – which got a bad press after the PIP implant scandal – and so-called “autologous” procedures.
– Lace –
One is to use a flap of fat or muscle from the patient, taken from another part of the body, to reconstruct the breast. “The other consists of gradually reinjecting fat cells taken from the storage areas during liposuction,” explains Dr. Apolline Bout Roumazeilles, reconstructive surgeon at the Curie Institute.
With these latter methods, “we take a sample from the body, this will cause pain and scars. The choice of technique is decided according to the morphology, the age of the patient”, she describes.
The Lattice implant comes in two parts, a base and a dome, with a design inspired by Calais-Caudry lace. “Some of the patient’s adipose tissue is first sutured to this base. Then it is closed with the dome: once implanted, the tissue regenerates inside, protected as in a cage, in six months”, explains Julien Payen, an engineer by training, who founded the start-up in 2017 with two doctors and a plastic surgeon from the Lille University Hospital.
“The implant is porous, which allows the healing fluid to nourish the tissue,” he continues.
After testing the technology on animals, the start-up obtained authorization to switch to humans. More recently, another French biotech, Healshape, in Lyon, has also embarked on a bioprosthesis project, also produced by 3D printer.
– “Replace the silicone” –
“We manufacture a porous matrix to regenerate tissue, made of biosourced natural materials, an environment very close to human tissue”, explains Sophie Brac de la Perrière, its president, who believes that this technology could extend reconstruction to more patients. Healshape plans to begin clinical trials in 2024.
“If it works instead of a silicone prosthesis, it would be a good alternative, making it possible to overcome the foreign body represented by the silicone, without having to make new scars on the body”, judges Doctor Bout Roumazeilles .
With their systems, Lattice and Healshape plan to offer personalized prostheses to each patient.
“Our goal is to make it accessible to all patients. In the long term, we want to replace silicone,” says Julien Payen. The breast reconstruction market is potentially very large. One in eight women will suffer from breast cancer in her lifetime. Without forgetting the sector of cosmetic surgery.
“You have to have a little perspective to judge, because until it’s tested, we don’t know if there will be side effects or complications,” tempers Dr. Bout Roumazeilles. “But if this type of device proves its effectiveness, I think I will use it in a few years,” she anticipates.