Most people would cringe at the thought of putting the words “breast implant” and “spiders” into the same sentence, but soon it may be unavoidable. A German-based company, AMSilk, creates a bio-synthetic Spider Silk for use in a variety of cosmetic applications. To understand why this spider silk was recently wrapped around silicone implants and tested in preclinical studies, you need to understand the problem that is posed by implanting silicone into the human body.
Many women prefer the look of silicone implants to saline. Since it behaves more like natural breast tissue, it tends to produce a more natural breast shape. However, what looks natural on the outside is not necessarily natural for the inside of the body. Our immune systems see saline and silicone alike as foreign substances. The immune system, therefore, can work counterproductive to the healing process, resulting in inflammation in the breast tissues, and sometimes scarring around implants.
The spider silk developed by AMSilk was recently used in a preclinical test, led by Assistant Medical Director Dr. Zeplin of the University Hospital of Leipzig, to coat the silicone implants just prior to implantation. The recombinant spider silk is non-immunogenic, and therefore is more easily accepted by the body than the silicone implants alone. The potential applications of this technology in other surgeries is exciting, but for now, clinical tests are focusing on breast implants.
New technology in the world of breast augmentation hasn’t always been a good thing. Just this month reports surfaced that adult film actress Elizabeth Starr is fearing for her life due to a breast implant procedure she obtained about 15 years ago. The technology used back then, (which was and still is illegal) involved the implantation of a polypropylene string, which was meant to absorb water and irritate the breast tissues, causing continuous expansion and growth. The risks of infection or a fatal blood clot is significant for women who have undergone this procedure, and Starr’s story serves to illuminate the dangers of untested and unapproved implants.
So what does this spider silk mean for women considering breast augmentation? The early study points towards a reduction in the rate of several complications, including inflammation, capsular thickness, hardening of the breast tissue, and capsular fibrosis. Breast reconstruction, aesthetic breast surgery, and corrective procedures may potentially become safer for women when the spider silk protein coating is used on the implants.
It may be some time before this technology becomes available for women considering the surgery, but the early results are in and they look promising. It’s important to note that this spider silk is made in a lab, and while it closely mimics the properties and qualities of real spider silk, it doesn’t come from real spiders — so squeamish women, and doctors, need not worry.
According to the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons, approximately 286,274 breast augmentations were performed in 2012, officially ranking it as the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure for that year. With more and more women choosing to go under the knife, the innovative spider silk coating coming out of AMSilk could make a tremendous impact on the health of hundreds of thousands of women.