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Growing Ears, Noses, and Confidence!

POSTED ON 28 April 2022

Picture for category Growing Ears, Noses, and Confidence!

At Zesti we are super interested in keeping an eye on the latest medical advancements. This recent research programme in Wales really is wild and has got us feeling very excited and optimistic about the future!


Swansea University are spending a whopping £2.1 million on research that could treat patients across Wales with severe facial scarring. The research is being funded by The Scar Free Foundation and Health and Care Research Wales. (SFF)


The treatment involves using human cells to replicate the structure of ears and noses with 3D printing… Technology these days eh, it really is something!


This amazing treatment could be the answer for many people who have been victims of burns, trauma or cancer that, until now, have had limited options for facial reconstruction. Solutions often require removal of a rib and skin grafts from elsewhere in the body in order to build a new ear or nose structure, which would mean more surgery, more pain and potentially more scarring. Many patients would, understandably, prefer to avoid this route, including Tina Morgan from Merthyr Tydfil who suffered from skin cancer on one of her ears back in 2010. Mrs Morgan’s ear was left partially missing after surgery to remove the cancer, and until now had not been convinced of existing treatments to reconstruct her ear. She said in a BBC article, ‘when I saw the research taking place in Swansea I thought it seemed a more feasible way to help not only me, but other people who are living every day with severe facial scarring. This could change our lives."


This new option really could be life changing for many. The SFF have invested huge amounts of research into the mental help implications of having significant facial differences. Changingfaces.org reports that 1 in 3 feel depressed, sad or anxious as a result of having a visible difference. Elizabeth from Birmingham, who suffered very severe burns as a result of a fire when she was a baby, visited the research programme in Wales. She has to go through treatment everyday and is often enduring high levels of pain. She told the BBC she found the research ‘exciting’. Her father said ‘A lot of the work they're doing in this lab we're hoping will benefit children like Elizabeth so they don't have to deal with the physical and mental impact of scars." (BBC)


One young lady, 10 year old Radiyah from Milford Haven, is the first to benefit from this groundbreaking treatment, and is going to be receiving a new ‘lab-built’ ear. These “prosthetics’’ if you like, are made out of human cells, and can be ‘printed’ using some incredible technology. These engineered structures thus imitate the missing cartilage. 


Professor Iain Whitaker, Health and Care Research Wales Specialty Lead for surgery, and Chair of Plastic Surgery at Swansea University Medical School said:


‘’I am grateful for this significant investment and support from The Scar Free Foundation and Health and Care Research Wales which will accelerate our ongoing research efforts to offer pioneering treatment options to patients and recruit further world class researchers into Wales.’’


‘’Successful translation of this research programme will transform the future of surgery, removing the need to transfer tissue from one part of the body to another and avoid the associated pain and scarring.” (Health and Care Research Wales)


He also told the BBC that ‘using printers would also make operations shorter, improving the experience of patients and lowering costs.’ He added that he hoped clinical trials could be held in Swansea in the "next two to five years". (BBC)


What could this mean for the future? Well, this really could open a lot of doors for new research into using 3D printing to create all sorts of new body parts, and potentially a new lifeline for patients' confidence and mental health. 





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