While currently available silicone breast implants have been proven to be reasonably safe to healthy candidates, companies are studying new technologies that could further reduce potential risks such as capsular contracture or hardening of the scar tissue around the devices.
The body normally encapsulates any artificial device introduced in the body to prevent it to migrate and grow. This mechanism results in the formation of thin, transparent scar tissue around the breast implants, although in some cases it becomes thicker than intended that it constricts them inside and leads to pain and visible distortion.
But one company has recently completed a preclinical testing involving silicone implants whose outside coating is made of a thin layer of spider silk, which is believed to make the devices more compatible with human tissue, thereby minimizing or even preventing the scar tissue from becoming thicker and denser.
The company behind the new technology, AMSilk, said that the coating can be applied to currently available silicone implants in the final stage of production.
While the spider silk coating—which is primarily made of proteins—makes the outer implant shell more acceptable to the human tissue, it does not alter the function of the device.
According to a preliminary study, the special coating reduces the rate of capsular contracture and other complications by regulating the reaction of immune cells, which is believed to prevent scar tissue that is made of collagen to expand excessively and lead to complications.
The researchers said the technology could reduce post-operative and long-term complications, thus potentially minimizing the likelihood of needing a revision surgery in the future.
While the preclinical trial was only performed on silicone breast implants, AMSilk has suggested that the new technology could also be applied to “surgical and wound treatment procedures.”
Meanwhile, another new technology is being developed in which breast implants are equipped with microchips that the doctors could scan to know pertinent details such as implant manufacturer, filler material, size, etc.
Currently, breast implants are commonly used for cosmetic breast augmentation in which the goal is to increase the bust size and/or fill in the deflated upper poles. However, the devices are also needed in reconstructive plastic surgery following mastectomy or cancer surgery, a procedure that is generally covered by health insurance.
Although tissue-based approach is also performed on post-breast cancer patients, it involves more risks—i.e., longer recovery, more scarring, and wound healing—than implant-based reconstruction.