BioAesthetics: Meaningful solutions for breast cancer survivors
In our latest episode of Popping the Bubbl, we returned to our day at IndieBio where we interviewed the recently graduated set of cohorts and were able to speak with Nick Pashos, CEO and Founder of BioAesthetics and his cofounder Billy Heim.
The team is working on regenerative solutions for mastectomy patients, specifically nipple and areola grafts, which can be used during reconstruction period of a mastectomy.
1 out every 8 women today will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It’s a disease that can strip a woman of her dignity and femininity. A complete mastectomy also is a removal of the nipple and areola leaving just the flat skin to heal and reconstructive surgeries to be scheduled for 3-4 months after the procedure.
Today’s solutions for nipple and areola reconstruction are less than desirable. There are prosthetics, rubber stick ons that are attached via an adhesive and taken on and off daily. Other options include a tattoo of an areola and nipple, but without a nipple protrusion and impermanent as tattoos fade. Lastly there is the surgical recreation of the nipple with existing skin or skin that is grafted from other parts of the body, but this too is a non permanent solution that loses its structural integrity within a few years. None of these solutions will return the patient’s sensitivity.
It has been shown that if a woman has the option for nipple reconstruction, her chances of undergoing the full mastectomy increase. On an emotional level, nipple reconstruction improves self esteem, body image and feelings of distress around the procedure.
Nick Pashos is a biomedical engineer and founder of BioAesthetics. He was inspired to go back to school to get his PhD after reading a paper that discussed the possibilities of regenerative organ growth, such as lungs that could be grown outside of the human body as an alternative to transplants. He entered Tulane for his PhD work and there learned everything he could about regenerative organ growth. With those learnings, he realized that he could apply the same technique to nipple reconstruction.
Enter BioAesthetics, a biotech company which is revolutionizing existing solutions for mastectomy patients by creating a tissue engineered nipple areolar complex which is grafted onto the patient for regeneration into their body.
How is it done?
BioAesthetics starts with donor tissue of a nipple and areola, from there it goes through a process which strips the tissue of all cells and DNA, leaving just the structure that maintains the protrusion of nipple. The donor tissue is completely “washed” leaving a pure protein sample that has no DNA left over, which helps ensure the graft is not rejected by the patient’s body. The tissue is then engrafted onto patient, leading to a regeneration with their own cells. The first signs of acceptance is a movement of the blood cells into the grafted tissue and the hope is that it will also encourage the growth of the nerves. The early tests are coming in positive and the hopes are that the product will be available to patients in 12-18 months.
The goal will be to give the product to plastic surgeons to introduce into their mastectomy practices.. but also there will be a need for education and a restructuring of the whole process from the tissue sourcing to insurance processing.
Here’s Nick’s presentation from IndieBio’s recent demo day, ff to 1:40 to see the from the start.
With 2.8 million breast cancer survivors living in the US, it is a disease that touches all of us. We thank Nick and Billy for the work they are doing for survivors. Have a listen to their story as we here learn about everything from Nick’s original inspiration to what Nick and Billy say they do at dinner parties.