A young Chinese man seriously injured in a car accident is soon to receive a brand-new nose from a decidedly strange place: his own forehead.
The 22-year-old, identified only as Xiaolian to media, had plastic surgery to rebuild his nose after the accident. Unfortunately, his nasal cartilage began to corrode, and doctors were unable to perform reconstructive surgery — making the strange-but-true forehead remedy the best option.
How exactly do doctors go about growing a new nose? The process, while less than pleasant-sounding, is not overly complex: first, tissue expanders are placed under the patient's forehead. Then, doctors fashion the rough shape of a nose from supports, which are planted with cartilage tissue harvested from the patient's ribs, according to Reuters sources.
The new proboscis is given time to grow under the patient's skin, then it is transplanted in one fell swoop onto the middle of the lucky recipient's face. Xiaolian's new nose will likely be transferred into place soon, replacing the smaller but less functional model currently there.
Why use forehead skin? Lenox Hill Hospital doctor David Cangello told LiveScience: "We like to use similar tissues to reconstruct organs within the same area."
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Further, blood vessels in the forehead are already properly placed to nourish the replacement nose, LiveScience said, which saves doctors the trouble of performing microsurgery.
This strange-looking solution may not be used forever, said Patrick Byrne of John Hopkins Medical Center to ABC. New appendages may someday be grown in labs, instead of directly on the patient's body.
"[We could] take a skin sample and some cells from the patient's DNA and cartilage and use those cells to grow entire structure prior to reimplantation," Byrne noted.