A 22-year-old man in China named Xiaolian is more “nosy” than most people, thanks to doctors who have grown a second nose on his forehead. You see, his original nose — the one in the middle of his face — was irreparably damaged when he neglected treatment for injuries suffered during a car accident in August 2012 and subsequently developed an infection that ate away at his nasal cartilage.
The medical treatment formulated by doctors at Xiaolian’s hospital in Fuzhou, Fujian province, called for growing a new nose by placing tissue expanders — implants designed to stretch the skin and muscle to make room for a permanent implant — under the skin. The expanders were cut into the shape of a nose, and then surgeons transplanted cartilage from the patient’s ribs to fill in the new nose. Next, it will be moved – cartilage, blood vessels and all — into the old nose’s location.
As strange as it looks, growing a body part in an unusual location on the patient’s body is a fairly common medical procedure when it comes to transplants. Last year, for instance, doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore grew an ear on a woman’s arm before moving it to her head. In fact, forehead skin is often used to grow noses because it most closely matches nose skin and because the forehead’s blood vessels don’t need disconnecting and reconnecting when transplanted. Typically, however, the reforming of the nose happens during surgery, so patients aren’t walking around with noses above their eyebrows.
If there are no complications during or after surgery, the new nose should work almost as well as the original one, since smell receptors are located further within the nasal cavity and thus weren’t damaged by the infection.
According to Dr. Patrick Byrne, the director of Facial, Plastic and Reconstruction Surgery at Johns Hopkins, it’s not far-fetched to imagine a future in which noses for transplants are grown in a lab rather than on a face. Another option is oh-so-trendy 3-D printing, with at least one company in England already working on providing realistic printed artificial noses and ears, complete with pores, wrinkles, birthmarks and blemishes.
(Sources: ABC News, Discovery News, Metro UK, Wired)