Forget gummy bear implants, the next wave of breast implants may do more than boost breast size, they may actually be able to detect and destroy breast cancer cells.

Sound far fetched? It may not be all that far off. Two groups are in the process of developing such implants.

Researchers at Brown University in Providence, RI, have created an implant that may deter breast cancer cell regrowth. The new implant is composed of a common polymer. It is modified at the nanoscale to cause a reduction in the blood-vessel architecture that breast cancer tumors depend upon while recruiting healthy endothelial cells for breast tissue. (See illustration.) Their findings appear in Nanotechnology.

In a related discovery, a team of researchers out of the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio received $100,000 in seed in seed money via “GE healthymagination Cancer Challenge.” They are creating implants and tissue expanders embedded with pharmaceutical agents. The new device is expected to help fight infection, reduce inflammation, and possibly even target and destroy stray cancer cells.

Stay Tuned.

[Illustration caption/credit: A selectively inhospitable surface. A bumpy “bed of nails” surface does not allow cancerous cells to gather the nutrients they need to thrive — possibly because cancerous cells are stiffer and less flexible than normal cells, which can manage the bumps and thrive. Credit: Webster Lab/Brown University]