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Medicine Science

The World's First Full Face Transplant 193

Dave Knott writes "A thirty-member Spanish medical team has achieved the world's first full face transplant. There have been ten previous similar operations, but this is claimed to be the first total transplant, replacing all of the face including some bones. The unnamed recipient originally injured himself in a shooting accident, and received the entire facial skin and muscles — including cheekbones, nose, lips and teeth — of a donor. The complex operation involved extraction of the donor's face, followed by removal of the jaw, nose, cheeks and parts of the eye cavities. Then the medical team took all of the donor face's soft tissue, including musculature, veins and nerves. In order to transplant the face, the medical team has to connect four jugular veins, extract bones and join all the musculature and blood vessels. The recipient has had a chance to see himself in the mirror, and is reportedly satisfied with the results. It is unknown whether he now looks more like John Travolta or Nicolas Cage." The pictures and videos in the linked articles are all computer-generated at this point, so the squeamish need not worry.
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The World's First Full Face Transplant

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  • The Results? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by hags2k ( 1152851 ) <hags2k AT gmail DOT com> on Friday April 23, 2010 @02:45PM (#31958780)
    I would be interested to see before/after pictures of the recipient.
  • by Cruciform ( 42896 ) on Friday April 23, 2010 @02:50PM (#31958866) Homepage

    Just wait until this becomes a cosmetic procedure for the rich. A few years of refinement and advances in microsurgery, and then they'll be raising clones of rich people in jungle compounds down in Brazil...

  • by goffster ( 1104287 ) on Friday April 23, 2010 @03:12PM (#31959186)

    A 30 member medical team is willing to reconstruct the face of someone who
    blew his own face off. I wonder how much that cost?

    I wonder how much it costs to vaccinate a single child
    against yellow fever ?

  • by prestonmichaelh ( 773400 ) on Friday April 23, 2010 @04:15PM (#31960028)

    Although I agree with you in general, I think people tend to go too much to extremes on both sides of this issue. Yes, we know a lot about the human body, how it works, and we know how to do a lot of stuff to it, but there is still tons of stuff we don't know.

    Even some of the stuff/treatments that we do "know" we don't really know what we are doing. As a real life example, I take generic Flonase for allergies. It is basically a steroid that you shoot in your nose. It works great and I am glad that someone figured out that it helps allergies.

    One day, I decided to read the long, wordy leaflet that comes with the prescription (don't ask me why). Here is a direct qoute from the leaflet:

    The precise mechanism through which fluticasone propionate affects allergic rhinitis symptoms is not known.

    Here is the complete leaflet in PDF form if you are interested: []

    If you go on to read it all, basically, in fancy doctor terms, it says that through trials they found out that this stuff works for a majority of people at the recommendend dose, but they really don't know why. They also don't know if it will work long term. And this is just a steroid for allergies.

    Again, I think the advances in medicine are great, but we shouldn't overrate them. I knew a guy a few years back who basically "knew" that in his lifetime (he was around 35 at the time, probably about 40 now) that we would have the medical techonolgy to live for ever. We would be able to either "reverse the aging process" and stop cells from dying, or at minimum, implant our consciousness in a robot of some sort. Anyway, it is good to keep in mind that a lot of medicine is still, in many cases, a lot of trial and error.

  • by izomiac ( 815208 ) on Friday April 23, 2010 @11:39PM (#31964366) Homepage
    Yep, it's a real shame those surgeons don't spend more time fixing the world's political problems. I mean, why develop or pay for costly procedures, it's not cost effective at all! For the price of a single patient on NovoSeven we could save many thousands from malaria. Aborting a single high-risk pregnancy could save enough money to pay for proper prenatal care for dozens of low income women. Allowing a single child to die of leukemia rather than perform a costly bone marrow transplant could put every one of his classmates through college.

    One benefit of being wealthy (as an individual or as a nation) is the ability to afford nice things. Since wealth isn't uniformly distributed, some people can afford such things while others cannot. As a wealthy nation we do fund quite a bit of foreign aid and public health initiatives in our own country. The cheap ideas that have a lot of measurable benefit are done unless there's a non economic/medical reason that prevents it. An example of which is that we spend more money on our own country's citizens than on another country's citizens due to a sense of responsibility and a respect for the other nation's autonomy. Another is that poor nations often have political issues that prevent cheap vaccines from being distributed.

    My understanding is that this procedure was developed for burn patients and similar. They undergo hundreds of procedures and are still left looking quite abnormal. The social implications are tremendous, as are the alterations to their sense of identity. This procedure could dramatically improve their quality of life.

    Full disclosure: my university has been working on this procedure for several years and have basically decided that they don't want to be the first. Apparently they're worried that the risk of rejection is too high, and if the face is rejected, what then? OTOH, I got all my info from one of the ethicists on the IRB, and not one of the core researchers. There are probably other reasons to not proceed despite allegedly being technically capable and ready for about 5 years now.

An egghead is one who stands firmly on both feet, in mid-air, on both sides of an issue. -- Homer Ferguson