Scientists at Stony Brook University have been doing research on cells for decades, but it's their work with cellulite that could soon make them legends on beaches and in bedrooms around the world.

Researchers at the university have developed a drug that dissolves the strands of connective tissue between skin and muscle, called collagen, that cause cellulite. The drug already works well on the disabling disease Dupuytren's contracture, which severely contorts sufferers' hands. That's the use for which Stony Brook researchers, along with Lynbrook-based BioSpecifics Technologies Corp., originally developed and patented Xiaflex. Now, though, other possible uses are popping up.

The drug is also being tested to treat Peyronie's disease, a painful curvature of the penis that can make sex impossible. And it is being tested to treat "frozen shoulder" syndrome.

But by far the biggest boon to the widest swath of man- and womankind would be in the area of fatty areas. An estimated 85 to 98 percent of women have, and probably hate, the bumpy and pebbled cellulite on their bodies, and if Xiaflex could smooth out those dimples, the potential joy for humanity is beyond reckoning.

The process to get FDA approval to use the drug for cellulite is in its first phase, with the drug being tested on 63 women.

Luckily, the university already holds some royalty rights on this drug. Stony Brook never got paid for its most vaunted medical invention, the magnetic resonance imaging machine, although inventor Paul Lauterbur did receive the Nobel Prize with Peter Mansfield of England.

That was an unusual stumble, though. Stony Brook excels at turning research into roylaties, and brings in 95 percent of such money garnered by the state's four reasearch campuses. Forty percent of that money goes to the inventors, while the other 60 percent is reinvested in research at Stony Brook.

The potential income from Xiaflex is, well, fat. But such research also brings knowledge to the world, and prestige to the university, along with, we hope, healthier, happier people.


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