The effectiveness of human stem cell therapies for facial reconstruction has been investigated by Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH).
For patients born with a malformed or missing ear, a condition known as microtia, the two-stage ear reconstruction involves taking cartilage from the patient's ribs and from this, a new scaffold is moulded and placed beneath the skin.
Both the clinical and cosmetic results of this procedure have been very good. However, as Patrizia Ferretti, Head of Developmental Biology Unit at the ICH and her co-authors demonstrate in their study, the potential application of human stem cells and tissue engineering could further improve results and would obviate the need for this invasive part of the procedure, which leaves a permanent defect in the donor site, a statement released here said.
"We used stem cells (hADSCs) harvested from the abdominal tissue of young patients affected by craniofacial conditions to explore, in our laboratories, how these might be used in future surgery. The use of stem cells from the pediatric patients themselves circumvents the issue of rejection and would overcome the need for immunosuppressive therapies," Ferretti said.
In addition to ear and nose cartilage reconstruction, they could be used, for example, to improve the quality of tracheal transplants. Scaffold cellularisation in vivo (within the body) is a lengthy and uneven process.
"Currently I take the rib cartilage from the chest to make an ear but if we could produce a block of cartilage using stem cells and tissue engineering, this would be the Holy Grail for our field," Neil Bulstrode, Consultant Plastic Surgeon at GOSH, said.
The paper has been published in the journal Nanomedicine.


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