|Ultrasound melts away fat without surgery or
Plastic surgeons have devised a machine that can melt away body fat. They are predicting that it will make the pursuit of the "perfect" figure so easy, painless and safe that treatment will be given in an office lunch hour.
The device is being developed in Israel, where it has been tested on pigs, and the surgeons in charge say that trials on human patients in Britain will begin next year.
The machine uses high-frequency ultrasound waves to break down fat deposits. These are then absorbed into the patients system and burned up by the body.
If the trials prove successful it could revolutionise "body sculpting", which is rapidly becoming the plastic surgery treatment most frequently requested at clinics in the United States and Europe.
The device could earn its inventors a fortune. Around the world, an estimated one million men and women a year are prepared to undergo liposuction an operating theatre technique where unwanted fat is sucked out from under the skin using a tube and vacuum pump.
Americans alone spent $2 billion (£1.4 billion) seeking the "perfect" figure last year and the prospect of a non-invasive method, which carries no risk of infection, will be greeted with delight.
Ami Glicksman, the senior attending plastic surgeon at the Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Aviv, told The Sunday Telegraph: "We have completed our research and we have our first prototypes working. We can selectively destroy the fat cells without harming other tissues such as skin, muscle, bone and nerves.
"The results from pigs, which resemble human beings in many ways, are very good. They seem to manage the destruction of the fat cells without any problem.
"It is going to be a totally non-invasive procedure; no operating room will be needed. It is an office treatment you walk in, you get it and you walk out. There is no recuperation time required and it is going to change the world of bodyshaping."
The idea, he said, was to make the clients body do the clearing-up work. The white cells of the immune system would mop up the debris and the body would metabolise the fat once it was released from fat cells ruptured by the sound waves.
Tests on pigs found that blood vessels and connective tissue in the treated areas remained perfectly healthy.
Doctors trying the device will be advised to limit the amount of fat removed using the ultrasound machine to half a litre (just under a pint) at a time.
This is around a third of the volume commonly removed in liposuction, but Dr. Glicksman said that it would be safe for clients to return for another sculpting session later. "It will take two or three weeks for the tissue to be absorbed, so basically you could come back in a month," he added.
There would be no need to go on a diet because the fat would be released into the bloodstream.
Dr. Glicksman and his partner Yoram Eshel, an ultrasound specialist, have established a company called UltraShape to market the device. The plastic surgeon claimed that 70 per cent of people in the West were unhappy with their body shape and said dieting on its own was not the answer.
"The problem with diet is that it is not selective," he said. "You lose weight from all over; you cannot say where you will lose weight for bodyshaping purposes."
The ultrasound machine would be ideal for the lumps and bumps that remained. "Even if you have only small love handles or saddlebags we will be able to treat them," added Dr. Glicksman. "We are not invasive".
Ultrasound probes that help liquefy fat before liposuction are currently available but at present these must be inserted under the skin alongside the suction tube. By contrast, the Israeli device is used outside the body.
Dan Goldberg, the medical director of the Hurlingham Clinic in Fulham, south-west London, said that surgeons would want to see strong evidence that the new technique worked on humans before welcoming it. However, he added: "If it does work, it will be a major advance. Its a fabulous concept."
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