Laboratory-Grown Cartilage Means New Nose for Patients

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71529_webThe first-ever successful nose reconstruction surgery performed with cartilage that was grown in the laboratory is a significant advance in the area of facial reconstruction. The procedure was completed at the University of Basel, Switzerland, starting with cartilage cells that were extracted from the patient’s nasal septum, which were then multiplied and expanded onto a collagen membrane. The membrane was then shaped to accommodate the defect before being implanted into the patient. The scientists plan to publish their results in the medical journal, the Lancet, after the study results were reported in various articles in Science Daily news and others.

The technique used by the scientists is known as tissue engineering, a term meaning that the cartilage was grown from the patient’s own cells. The procedure was performed on five patients between the ages of 76 and 88 who had obtained serious nasal defects as a result of cancer surgery. One year after the surgery was performed, all five participants reported satisfactory ability to breathe, in addition to being satisfied with the cosmetic appearance of the noses. None of the patients experienced any side effects.

The non-melanoma skin cancer that had affected these patients is most frequently seen on the nose. Cartilage must often be cut away in order for surgeons to reach the tumors. To reconstruct these areas, grafts are usually taken from the nasal septum, ear, or ribs. This has proven to be both invasive and painful, while often leading to the need for additional surgery that can also result in complications. The new technique not only eliminates the associated complications and pain, but may also make it more likely for the body to accept the tissue more easily, while improving the stability and functionality of the nostril. The same procedure is currently being tested for use in cartilage repair of the knee.

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