Medical research is progressing every day. Things that even a few months ago wouldn’t have seemed possible are now being done on a regular basis. Luckily for a young Chinese man whose nose became damaged following a traffic accident, it is now possible to grow a new nose; in this case, on the patient’s own forehead.
As the BBC explains, the patient, Xiaolian from Fuzhou province in China, was involved in a traffic accident. He largely recovered from his injuries, but his nose became infected. Unfortunately though, he didn’t seek treatment for the infection. As a result, the cartilage in his nose was damaged and his nose became deformed. The damage was so severe that the doctors were unable to do fix it.
However, they were able to grow Xiaolian a new nose by growing it under the skin of his forehead. This was done by placing a skin tissue expander on Xiaolian’s forehead. The tissue was shaped into a nose around some cartilage taken from his ribs. The nose has now successfully grown and will shortly be transplanted from his forehead onto his face to replace his deformed nose.
According to an expert cited by the BBC, the forehead is a great place to grow new tissue because the skin on the forehead is very similar to the skin of the nose. In addition, “the forehead skin can be moved to the nose and keep its blood supply, which is essential otherwise the skin would die.” In the case of Xiaolian, it has saved him from going through life with a deformed nose.
Amazingly, however, this is not the first time that doctors have been able to grow a new nose for a patient. In the UK, University College of London experts were able to rebuild a cancer patient’s nose, which he lost to cancer. Rather than grow it on his forehead, the patient’s bone marrow cells were used to grow a new nose in the laboratory.
Before the patient’s original nose was removed, a mould was taken of it. From this mould, a second mould was made and then a polymer scaffold was sprayed into it. As a Huffington Post article explains: “Cells from the patient's bone marrow are grown in the lab then added to the nose scaffold, which is placed in a bioreactor - a large jar-like container that rotates.”
After the cells grew over the scaffold, which took a couple of weeks, the nose was ready to be transplanted. However, although the nose was shaped, it was not yet covered in skin. The nose therefore had to be transplanted to the patient’s arm, where the skin had been stretched in advance, to allow it to grow skin and develop a blood supply. After just a few weeks, the nose would be ready to be transplanted onto the face. Just in case the transplant went wrong, a second nose was also grown.
The regeneration of human body parts is clearly a breakthrough for medical science and will hopefully be developed further over the next few years.