London: There is hope for those who have lost their nose to cancer or in an accident.
Scientists have reported the first-ever successful nose reconstruction surgery using cartilage grown in the laboratory.
Cartilage cells were extracted from the patient's nasal septum, multiplied and expanded onto a collagen membrane.
The so-called engineered cartilage was then shaped according to the defect and implanted.
"The engineered cartilage has clinical results comparable to the current standard surgery. This new technique could help the body to accept the new tissue better and to improve the stability and functionality of the nostril," said Ivan Martin, professor for tissue engineering at the University Hospital of Basel.
A research team from the University of Basel in Switzerland, used a method called tissue engineering where cartilage is grown from patients' own cells.
This new technique was applied on five patients, aged 76 to 88 years, with severe defects on their nose after skin cancer surgery.
One year after the reconstruction, all five patients were satisfied with their ability to breathe as well as with the cosmetic appearance of their nose.
None of them reported any side effects.
"The method opens the way to using engineered cartilage for more challenging reconstructions in facial surgery such as the complete nose, eyelid or ear," said Martin.
Usually, grafts for reconstruction are taken from the nasal septum, the ear or the ribs and used to functionally reconstruct the nose.
However, this procedure is very invasive, painful and can lead to complications at the site of the excision due to the additional surgery.
The researchers extracted a small biopsy, isolated the cartilage cells (chondrocytes) and multiplied them.
The expanded cells were seeded onto a collagen membrane and cultured for two additional weeks, generating cartilage 40 times the size of the original biopsy.
The engineered grafts were then shaped according to the defect on the nostril and implanted.
The same engineered grafts are currently being tested in a parallel study for articular cartilage repair in the knee.
The results of the study are slated to appear in the journal The Lancet.
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