Design of an acellular pro-survival hydrogel to improve autologous fat grafting

01 November 2021 → 31 October 2025
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Medical and health sciences
    • Cell signalling
    • Tissue engineering
    • Plastic surgery
intercellular communication
Project description

With an estimated 2.3 million new cases in 2020, female breast cancer (BC) has become the leading cause of global cancer incidence (11.7% of all cancer cases), accounting for 1 in 4 cancer cases in women. Following ablative surgery in patients with diagnosed BC, or following prophylactic mastectomies, a variety of reconstructive options are implemented. Depending on the patient’s individual preference and surgical possibilities, reconstruction includes the use of breast implants, autologous tissue transplantation, and/or autologous fat grafting (AFG). However, the aforementioned approaches have considerable shortcomings, which, in addition to being an economic burden for society, are detrimental for patients’ physical and psychological health. Therefore, modern tissue engineering approaches in reconstructive breast surgery are urgently needed. However, the development of novel efficient biomaterials can only be achieved when combined with a thorough understanding of human cellular and molecular processes required to develop and sustain complex tissues. In this research proposal, I aim to document the cellular microenvironment in human AFG in a dynamic manner at unprecedented detail. These data will result in the identification of crucial mediators of angiogenesis, adipogenesis and adipocyte survival, which will be used to design a hydrogel impregnated with these factors to drastically improve the survival and regeneration of AT grafts, hence improving AFG’s predictability.