High Performance Engineering Used to Design Facial Bone Replacements

The same technology used to create high-performance aircraft is now being used to create 3-D models for the replacement of facial bones that are often lost during cancer surgery, an accident or other types of trauma. Researchers published the results of a recent project in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in early July 2010. The research was completed at the Ohio State University research center, in collaboration with the University of Illinois.

The U.S. Department of Defense has declared its interest in improving facial reconstruction by establishing the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine in 2008. Currently, plastic surgeons and facial reconstruction surgeons uses various plastic surgery techniques that use the patient’s own bone to restore the bone structure.

The difference between conventional facial reconstruction procedures and the high-performance engineering techniques is that the new engineering techniques can create a patient-specific design, instead of just a generic shape. Researchers used a special 3D computational modeling system and the same processes used to create multifunctional, high-performance materials used in aircraft such as space shuttles.

According to Alok Sutradhar, a postdoctoral researcher in plastic surgery at Ohio State who was trained as an engineer, “The purpose is to find the most optimized macrostructure to replace the missing bone. It would contain the minimum amount of tissue positioned in three-dimensional space and supported upon remaining uninjured portions of the facial skeleton.”

In addition to remodeling the bone structures, researchers were able to review and create soft tissues for transplantation. Many plastic surgeons have been looking for ways to grow new bone tissue and find ways to assimilate the bone and soft tissues into the skeletal system. The current research provides new opportunities and options for bone reconstruction specialists, and is supported by a National Science Foundation grant from the Early-concept Grant for Exploratory Research (EAGER) program.

(Source: Ohio State University)

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