Imagine a mask made of real skin that doctors can surgically attach to a face, no donor required. It’s the next step beyond a face transplant, and it’s now being developed for our wounded warriors.
From the battlefield to nearly 80 surgeries in the operating room, a mold shows the toll on Jason March’s skull.
“This side shows you the whole cheekbone destroyed,” March said. “The entire right side of my face has been reconstructed. “
But a new procedure might be able to help soldiers like March. About 50 experts are working on a groundbreaking idea that could minimize the pain and scarring from facial reconstruction surgery.
“Make [the skin] into a face so surgeons can, after removing the burned skin and scars, place it over the face and it gives the contours of the skin,” Colonel Robert Hale, one of the experts on the project, said. “More normal.”
It’s a far different method then the typical treatment of grafting skin on like a quilt. The biomask would require a synthetic skin made of collagen from fetal cow tissue.
“We will combine with the stem cell from the patient's own stem cell to promote wound healing," Dr. Jian Ling of the Southwest Research Institute said.
The biomask won’t be ready for five to ten years. But, as Jason says, he’s the face of what smart minds have already accomplished.
“I was never able to smile,” March said. “When I smiled, that side went down.”
But now, things have changed.
Researchers said the biomask would be the ultimate tool for treating burn victims. Current treatments can result in lumps, disfiguring scars and speech problems.