December 8, 2013
Man Loses Nose In Accident; Grows New One On Forehead
If I were to tell you to imagine a man with a nose growing on his forehead or a woman with an ear slowly emerging from her forearm, what would be your first thought? Let’s assume you didn’t flee the scene or report me for psychotropic drug use. So what would it be? B-rated horror film? Mad scientist experiment? Hilariously underwhelming superpower? None of the above, in fact. I’m talking about science. Reconstructive plastic surgery, to be specific. Both of these strange scenarios are actual examples from people whose bodies have been tasked with growing their own replacements. Though the thought of having bits of you growing where they don’t belong is rather horrific, the medical technology behind it is fascinating. Disturbing, yes, but fascinating.
Let me tell you, they’ve taken “nose job” to a whole new level.
The man with the forehead-nose suffered a horrific traffic accident in China that destroyed most of his original nose, while the woman with the forearm-ear suffered severe cartilage defects due to advanced basal-cell carcinoma. Through a process called prelamination, skin and tissue from an area that most closely matches the original was “built” on a layer-by-layer basis. A skin graft placed underneath the freshly grown skin flap and is allowed to heal before the process proceeds further. Once the healing is complete, the graft allows for additional layers to be added in between without cutting off blood flow to the new tissue. If you think such a technique sounds a bit risky, you’re right. Aside from the obvious social complications of having an additional nose on your forehead, the reconstruction process is not perfect. The exposure of the cartilage leaves the potential for infection, and in the event the framework is not set properly, parts can end up misshapen. Granted, we’re talking about practical plastic surgery here, not a vanity boob job, but it’s still a terrifying prospect.
The process of prelamination is fairly versatile, and apparently there are several good candidates for growing replacement parts. I kind of feel sorry for the guy whose forehead was the prime match, but apparently that particular location was chosen to ensure the best potential blood flow to the new cells. Can you imagine the conversation that must have taken place between that guy and his doctors? At least the woman with the forearm-ear could wear long sleeves if she wanted to.
Apparently, science isn’t done here, either. Prelamination’s versatility extends beyond the myriad places your body can grow new bits. Eventually, researchers say, the goal is to utilize cell samples and grow the pieces on their own in the laboratory. That’s right, we’ll basically have genetic nose, ear, and eyeball farms. You know those scenes in horror movies where the protagonists stumble across the villain’s secret lab, and they find all sorts of interesting things floating around in brightly colored goo? That’s what I’m imagining.
Is it accurate? No. But the image amuses me, and that’s what’s really important.
Image Credit: agsandrew / Shutterstock