Keratin (protein from hair/ fur/nails/feathers/beaks) for Implant Filler

Trying a New Filler for Breast Implants

It has been more than a century since Dr. Robert Gersuny of Vienna first tried to give a woman a more impressive decolletage by injecting paraffin into her breasts. Since then, all manner of materials have been injected or implanted in the quest for bust augmentation: glass balls, wood, cartilage, animal fat, sponges, ivory and polyurethane.

The most popular, of course, were silicone implants, first dreamed up by Dr. Frank Gerow, a Houston surgeon whose inventive epiphany came when he squeezed a plastic blood transfusion bag and was impressed by how much it resembled a human breast.

Silicone implants were banned in 1991 amid concerns that they caused autoimmune disease. Thus, the quest for an ideal breast implant material continues.

The latest candidate comes from Dr. Robert Allen Smith, a plastic surgeon in Jackson, Miss., who this month patented what he hopes will be the next big innovation in bust augmentation.

What material does Dr. Smith use in these new implants? Hair. Or, rather, keratin, the protein that hair is made of. The keratin, as Dr. Smith notes in patent 6,371,984, does not have to come from human hair. It may also be obtained "from hair or fur of animals including any mammal, from finger or toenail material or from hooves, or from the beaks, feet or feathers of birds."

Dr. Smith first conceived of the idea about a decade ago when he was redoing a face lift on a patient whose previous lift had been done by another surgeon.

[04/29/2002; New York Times (Free Registration Required)]

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