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It's not every day you hear that a space program is revolutionising breast reconstruction, but for women who've had a mastectomy, that's exactly what NASA is helping B-lite implants to do.
Created by an Israeli manufacturer, the B-Lite implants are made with a traditional implant shell. But instead of filling the implant with silicone, B-Lite contains tiny hollow spheres that cannot move around or pass through the shell of the implant.
These microspheres are made from borosilicate, a material which was developed and used by NASA as glass to protect its space shuttles during re-entry to earth.
The implant's biggest asset is that it’s up to 30% lighter than traditional silicone implants, meaning it's more comfortable for the patient and reduces the soft tissue stress that can often come with a heavier alternative.
This technology could change the way surgeons perform breast reconstructions on women needing reconstructive plastic surgery.
It's already caught the eye of Professor Joanna Wakefield-Scurr, an expert in breast bio-mechanics and head of a breast research unit at Portsmouth University. Professor Wakefield-Scurr is planning a year-long study comparing the pull, aesthetic and movement of women with B-Lite implants compared with those who have standard implants.
Along with the difference in weight, B-Lite's microsphere technology means there is a lower likelihood of leakage if the shell of the implant was to rupture. This is because the borosilicate spheres are physically and chemically fixed into the cohesive gel.
The new technology in the B-Lite implants could be an exciting break-through in reconstructive surgery. Although it's not currently included on the government-approved Prosthesis List, which means it won't be covered by private health insurance, it is worthwhile keeping an eye on it given the possible patient benefits.