- 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 patient's system and burned up by the
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 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
He added: "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 client's 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. He said: "It will take two or three weeks
for the tissue to be absorbed, so basically you could come back in a month."
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.
He said: "The problem with diet is that it is not selective. You lose
weight from all over; you cannot say where you will lose weight for bodyshaping
The ultrasound machine would be ideal for the lumps and bumps that remained.
Dr Glicksman added: "Even if you have only small 'love handles' or
'saddlebags' we will be able to treat them. 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. It's a fabulous concept."