We’ve all rebutted an odd look at some point in our life. Possibly with the phrase, “You’re looking at me like I’m growing a (insert your bodily organ) on my face”. Well, in the case of Xiaolian these looks probably couldn’t have been avoided. As odd as it may sound to have a nose growing out your face this is actually no genetic deformity but, instead, should truly be considered a testament to the leaps and bounds that have been made within the scientific realm. Surgeons at a hospital in Fuzhou, Fujian province have discovered away to grow a person a new nose. The recipient is Xiaolian, a 22-year- old Chinese man who has undergone the procedure of having a nose grown on his forehead in order to replace his original nose, which is infected and deformed from a car accident.
Xiaolian’s car accident occurred in 2012, but he failed to seek the proper treatment which would have allowed him to avoid his present circumstance. Several months after the accident the infection began to eat away at the cartiliage of the nose, therefore, preventing surgeons from fixing it. Ultimately, the only choice Xiaolian had was to grow a replacement for transplant.
The surgeons used a tissue expander, a method of cutting the tissue into the shape of a nose and taking cartilage from Xiaolian’s ribs to mold it into shape, to “grow” the nose on Xiaolian’s forehead. Local media who have witnessed the grown nose say that it looks good. They and the performing surgeons have confirmed that the transplant surgery is set to happen soon.
While this may seem like something out of a movie scene this actually isn’t the first time that doctors have grown a nose from scratch. The same procedure was performed on a British man who had lost his nose to cancer. The experts of University College of London made the new nose from stems cells and glass mold and grew it on the man’s forearm. It took three months for the nose to be grown before it was ready for transplant. According to Professor Alex Seifalian, “His nose was a little bit bent to the left and we asked if he wanted it straight, but he said no, he wanted it exactly the same“.
Professor Seifalian isn’t new to the idea of creating replacement organs. His research team developed a patent for nanocomposite material which used in growing the first synthetic windpipe, which was transplanted into a Swedish patient in 2011. Professor Seifalian told BBC at that time, “The material pulses like an artery and we can make it different diameters. We plan to use it for arteries, larger structures like [the] aorta, and it could even be used to create an ear, nose or replacement skin.” Started from the windpipe, now we’re here.