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Ultrasound: Will it be the kindest cut of all?

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If ever a modality was all things to all people, that modality is ultrasound. Just about the only specialty these days not using a form of noninvasive ultrasound is plastic surgery. An Israeli firm called UltraShape plans to fix that.

If ever a modality was all things to all people, that modality is ultrasound. Just about the only specialty these days not using a form of noninvasive ultrasound is plastic surgery. An Israeli firm called UltraShape plans to fix that.

The company has come up with an externally applied fat zapper, a high-intensity ultrasound system. The zapper blasts fat cells into oblivion while leaving surrounding structures such as skin, blood vessels, and nerves intact. If the popularity of Nip/Tuck and Dr. 90210 are any indication, this zapper is going to be big. Already the company has some deep-pocketed believers.

Last month UltraShape raised $15.1 million in new capital to further develop its body contouring technology. The Contour I system, available in selected markets including the European Union, has not yet received FDA clearance. But clearance is coming.

UltraShape has recruited some of the best connected plastic surgeons in the U.S. to serve on its North American Medical Advisory Board. These folks hail from Harvard, University of California, Los Angeles, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Johns Hopkins University, to name a few.

En route to the world's number one market for medical devices, UltraShape has stopped off at 250 clinics in 46 countries to perform 30,000 "walk-in, walk-out" procedures. The privately held, venture-backed company has opened 26 offices in Europe, 10 in Asia-Pacific, eight in Latin America, and one each in Canada, the U.S., and Africa. To meet their goals, UltraShape's executives will need all the locations they can muster.

UltraShape seeks to redefine "aesthetic medicine," according to its corporate statement. In the process, it could redefine ultrasound. Nothing appeals to human nature from a medical perch more directly than this. Clearly, the ultrasound boutiques for prenatal photo albums and the baby heart monitors crafted from pocket Dopplers were, if you excuse the expression, little more than child's play

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