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Saturday, April 30, 2011

A gel for better plastic surgery results

"This could be a real revolution in plastic surgery," Dan Touitou, CEO of Juvenis.

Israel's Juvenis will soon start clinical trials for Tenergel, a safe compound physicians can use to fill in or smooth out body areas altered by treatment and surgery.

Using modern technology, medical science has been able to save the lives of many people suffering from serious, life-threatening diseases, enabling them to extend their lives far beyond what had been possible just a generation ago. But little attention has been paid to the emotional fallout from procedures that entail significant physical changes - and not always positive ones.

For example, AIDS patients under treatment often suffer from a wasting away of the face - called lipoatrophy - even if they survive the disease. And while body or facial changes won't kill patients, they're often traumatic enough to cause depression or other major psychological crises. Facial and breast reconstruction are very expensive and often do not provide satisfactory results.

Enter Israel's Juvenis, which has developed Tenergel, an inexpensive dermal filling technology that lets plastic surgeons more easily fill in areas cut away by the surgeon's knife. The result - a restoration of a "reasonable facsimile" of the patient's pre-procedure appearance, and an accompanying restoration of self-confidence.

Tenergel is a very safe form of artificial fat, says company CEO Dan Touitou. "Tenergel is a unique compound polymer in gel form that is perfect for filling large volumes, such as breast augmentation reconstructing or facial reconstruction." Tenergel can also be used for elective plastic surgery, Touitou says - yielding better results for less money than with current solutions.

Made from organic materials

The best part of Tenergel, says Touitou, is that it's made of organic, safe materials, including castor oil and citric acid. Both are considered foods by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and have long been approved for use intravenously. Since it is a new compound, Tenergel will need to be approved by the FDA for medical use, but Touitou says he does not anticipate any problem with this process, since the ingredients are safe and well-known.

Another advantage of Tenergel is its durability. "Nearly all of the filler products on the market today don’t last very long and require an almost complete reapplication after a period of time," Touitou says. For example, valoneic acid dilactone (VAD), used in lip reconstruction, is very expensive - and almost completely disappears in a half year, as compared to Tenergel, which normally has a 20% reduction, based on extensive animal studies Juvenis has conducted. "Besides, only Tenergel is suitable for large volume application, unlike VAD and other popular materials used by plastic surgeons," Touitou says.

In fact, there is only one other product on the market that could be considered a competitor for Tenergel, made by a Dutch company - and this product is much more expensive and lasts for far less time than Tenergel. Injectable, affordable and painless, Tenergel can be applied on an outpatient basis, and is scar-free - and, says Touitou, it is the only product of its kind that feels like natural tissue.

Established in 2008, Juvenis is located in Misgav, in northern Israel, and is a part of the Misgav Venture Accelerator. Along with Touitou, who has worked in the commercial pharmaceuticals business for years, the company is led by co-founders Prof. Abraham Domb, head of the forensic sciences division of the Israel Police, and Dr. Lior Yankelson, who has established a number of medical startups in the past.

The company, which holds several patents, expects to start clinical trials in the next month or two, and is aiming for EU approval by next year. "Tenergel is inexpensive, long-lasting, and large-volume, the only product on the market with all three characteristics," says Touitou. "This could be a real revolution in plastic surgery."