Promising New Medical Technology For Facial Trauma

We’ve talked before about facial disfigurement and how we react to it. Humans tend to classify who and what they see to bring order to our world and we tend to shy away from anything that doesn’t fit our idea of “normal”.

Soldiers with battlefield facial trauma have new hope.

Soldiers returning from war often come home with facial disfigurement resulting from injuries sustained while deployed. Defense technology combined with medical advances mean that what once may have been a mortal head wound is now survivable but with major trauma to the face.

An article in Science Blog highlights new research from biomedical engineers at Johns Hopkins University who are developing a new liquid material that is showing tremendous promise in restoring damaged soft tissue. The material is a composite of biological and synthetic molecules that is injected under the skin and then “set” using light to form a more solid structure. Researchers are hopeful that one day the product could be used to reconstruct a soldier’s face damaged by blasts,  bullets, or other injuries.

It contrasts with biological materials used in the past that were broken down by the body too quickly.  Other synthetic products were rejected by the immune system and also didn’t bond well with surrounding organic material. This material has a biological component more readily accepted by the body with a synthetic element for durability.

The research team also has high hopes for the composite’s use for people with facial deformities as it may help avoid repeated surgeries that often result in scarring. The multiple uses for abnormalities as well as accidents or injuries from war keep the team at Johns Hopkins working for a future where this component will be an everyday tool for maxillofacial surgical practices like ours. 

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