Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A new kind of breast implant

by Thúy-Lan Võ Lite

It was only a matter of time before stem cell research expanded from curing cancer and diabetes to growing bigger boobs. According to this article, a group of British scientists promises to "boost cup size while reducing stomach fat" by utilizing a new technique that extracts fat from the stomach or thighs, isolates stem cells, combines them with another batch of fat, and then injects the delectable mixture into the breast. The procedure, which has been practiced in Japan now for six years, was originally designed "to repair the breasts of women who have had cancerous lumps removed" but will soon be offered to "healthy women seeking breast enlargement."

Assuming you're okay with stem cell research on an ethical level, the development should seem largely positive. If the decision is autonomous, breast augmentation is a way for women to express their control over their own bodies and to boost both confidence and self-esteem; this procedure takes an age-old surgery and makes it safer and more natural. Professor Kefah Mokbel of the London Breast Institute at the Princess Grace hospital stated, "Implants are a foreign body. They are associated with long-term complications and require replacement. They can also leak and cause scarring." This process, however, "promotes the growth of blood vessels to ensure a sufficient blood supply circulates to the transplanted fat," which may offer a safer and "more natural" alternative.

Of course, there's the issue of the social pressures that influence women to alter their bodies in the first place. It seems antithetical to the feminist cause to allow the androcentric, unrealistic media to influence how a woman sees her body and, furthermore, to encourage her to conform to these ideals by, for example, obtaining larger breasts. But if a woman decides for her own reasons that she would benefit from or enjoy being chestier, it would be more just to allow her to pursue this desire. And if science improves the process, even better.

Women today are caught in a limbo; they are given the message that their breasts are too small in a world where controversy makes them feel guilty for changing them. Though far from perfect - the technique, after all, "will not provide firmness and uplift" - the stem cell process should be offered as an alternative for women seeking larger breasts.

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