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(photo credit: Courtesy)
It may not sound kosher, but Israeli researchers are using pigs to test an innovative technology they say will replace cosmetic breast surgery.
The MIM technique (Minimally Invasive Mastopexy), developed by the startup of the same name, promises to reshape, support and lift breast soft tissue in a much more minimally invasive manner than today's cosmetic breast surgery.
Its inventor calls the breast support kit the "internal bra." The company is calling it the "Cup&Up." And news of its development has been picked up by numerous health and style websites and publications in the few days since it was featured on the Israel 21c website, dedicated to showcasing non-conflict aspects of modern Israel.
"In today's aesthetic surgery, plastic surgeons reshape many body parts - the nose, butt, hands, tummy. Most of the procedures are very intensive, risky ones, with long recovery periods, problems with scars and inconvenience. We're trying to develop a method to replace those surgical procedures with minimally invasive kits," says MIM CEO Adi Cohen.
As women age, breasts may begin to sag, a process often accelerated by pregnancy and nursing.
Mastopexy, the clinical name for surgical breastlifting, involves massive interference with both internal and external breast tissues; the procedure is expensive, requires long term recovery, and comes with potential risks and complications. Despite the risks, millions of invasive breast procedures are performed each year.
Another problem with current procedures is their failure to prevent breasts from later sagging. "They last only for limited period of time after treatment," said Cohen. "Newton is around, and gravity is working, and everything is falling again - what we call ptosis."
"What we've done is build a siliconee bra, insert it into the body and attach it to the ribs and to the fascia. It's like a normal external bra," he continues, "where a strip lies on the shoulder and attaches around the body. We attach it to the ribs instead of to the shoulder, and to the fascia in the lower part of the body."
Cohen, who served as an Israeli Air Force captain for seven years before entering the business world, heard about the MIM concept from its inventor Dr. Eyal Gur, head of microsurgery at Tel Aviv's Ichilov Hospital.
Gur said on Sunday that that the procedure would be "shorter, safer and cheaper" than traditional cosmetic breast surgery. "We hope [the procedure] will last for 10 years," he told Israel Television on Sunday.
"I call it an internal bra," Gur told Israel 21c. "All women are looking for the right bra that will hold their breasts in the position they prefer aesthetically. There's an increasing trend towards buying push-up bras to enhance the upward breast pull.
"So I was thinking that with a harness created from materials used in medicine - silicone, threads and very small anchoring screws - we could support breast tissue and avoid further breast sagging."
The procedure is minimally invasive, requiring two small openings through which the device is attached to the ribs.
"It may sound scary, but take a look at cosmetic and plastic surgery - that's much more invasive," said Gur. "The most prevalent procedure in the world is breast implantation. Who is the crazy woman who agreed to be the first to put silicone into her body? Very strange things happen within the cosmetic world and the MIM is not as crazy as it sounds."
Cohen founded MIM in 2004 as part of the Meytav technological incubator in Kiryat Shmona. Within three years they have produced a final prototype which has undergone rigorous testing.
According to Gur, tests applied included strength, fatigue and endurance, "because the device in the body will have to endure running, spinning and bike riding."
Where do the pigs come in?
"There isn't a single animal tissue or organ that behaves like a female's breast, not even in monkeys," said Gur. "Since the pigskin most closely resembles human skin, we inserted silicone implants inside the pig chest wall and supported them by using our device. We were testing staying power, tissue reaction and damage or injury to muscles or ribs. The results showed the Cup&Up held in place nicely without complications; this paved the way for human clinical trials, a major juncture for the life of any company."
CEO Cohen expects the trials to begin in a few months outside of Israel. MIM is considering cooperation with American plastic surgeons and with Sweden, Brazil, and India based partners.
Cohen, who has years of experience working with industrial companies but none with an aesthetic treatment venture like MIM, admits he was surprised to discover the subject's popularity. He recalls discussing the MIM technique over Friday night dinner with friends.
"All the women said, 'I want to be the first one!' It was like a fire in the fields! Everyone was very enthusiastic about the idea," he said. "The aesthetic market is growing rapidly; most women are willing to try things out. It's becoming like a trend."
Whereas in the past only older women wanted to reshape their bodies, today teen girls are open to augmentation treatments and breast-lifts, added Cohen. "We're not encouraging this trend, we are simply trying to minimize risk."
"There's intense interest already," Gur concurred. "Women talk with us about it, as do plastic surgeons worldwide and some leading international figures are interested in cooperating with us. Statistics show that about 8 percent of American women who undergo breast lifts end up filing malpractice suits due to sagging. Our device is safer than breast surgery and will prevent the need for these women to undergo a second invasive procedure."
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