For the first time, bio-engineered cartilage has been successfully used in nasal reconstruction surgery.
As they reported in the latest issue of the journal The Lancet, researchers at the University of Basel, in Switzerland, grew the cartilage from cells taken for the nasal septum of the patients undergoing the surgery.
The lab-made cartilage was used in nasal reconstructions in five patients who ages ranged from 76 to 88. They needed the operations to correct severe defects in their noses related to non-melanoma skin cancers.
The cartilage used in standard nose reconstructions usually is taken from the patient’s nasal septum, ears or ribs. This sort of invasive tissue harvesting, however, can result in added pain and raise the patient’s risk of surgical complications.
Researchers from the University of Basel’s Department of Biomedicine, in collaboration with doctors from the University Hospital of Basel, decided to try another approach. They began by removing a small sample of cartilage cells, called chondrocytes, from the nasal septum via a biopsy.
The researchers then employed bio-engineering techniques to grow more of the cartilage cells, which they seeded onto membranes. After two weeks growing in culture, the cells turned into a mass of cartilage that was 40 times the size of the sample taken by the biopsy.
The cartilage, after being shaped to match the nasal defect, was implanted by University Hospital surgeons.
The clinical results of the alternative method were comparable with those seen in standard nasal reconstructions, said Ivan Martin, professor of tissue engineering in the Department of Biomedicine.
One year later, none of the five nasal reconstruction patients have reported any negative side effects from the procedure, according to the Swiss researchers. The patients do not have breathing problems and are pleased with the appearance of their rebuilt noses.
“This new technique could help the body to accept the new tissue better and to improve the stability and functionality of the nostril,” Martin said.
Potentially, the engineered cartilage could be used in more complex surgical procedures, including total reconstruction of noses, ears or eyelids, according to Martin.
The use of engineered cartilage in reconstructive surgery, however, won’t entered mainstream clinical use until additional studies confirm the medical efficacy of the procedure, Martin cautions. In additions, affordable methods of creating large amounts of the engineered cartilage will have to be developed.
In the meantime, a parallel study is assessing the potential of the engineered tissue to replace cartilage in the knee joint.