London: In a breakthrough, Swiss scientists claim to have carried out the first-ever pioneering surgery to repair cancer-ravaged noses using tissue grown from the patient's own cartilage cells.
Surgeons have rebuilt the noses of five skin cancer patients by growing the nasal tissue 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.
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 type of non-melanoma skin cancer investigated in the study is most common on the nose, specifically the alar wing of the nose, because of its cumulative exposure to sunlight.
To remove the tumour completely, surgeons often have to cut away parts of cartilage as well. 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, due to the additional surgery, lead to complications at the site of the excision.
Researchers have now developed an alternative approach using engineered cartilage tissue grown from cells of the patients' nasal septum.
They 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 engineered cartilage had clinical results comparable to the current standard surgery," said Ivan Martin, Professor for Tissue Engineering at the Department of Biomedicine.
"This new technique could help the body to accept the new tissue better and to improve the stability and functionality of the nostril," said Martin.
The study appears in the journal The Lancet.