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The Face Transplant December 3, 2005

Posted by Tim in Science/Tech, World.
Frenchwoman undergoes the first successful (face) transplant. She had been mauled by a Labrador, and the donor was a brain dead woman. She was horribly disfigured and found it hard to eat, speak or drink. No pictures of her yet, but she’s doing well.

Choose a link.

Wikipedia has a little history on the progress in facial transplants, this is interesting:

The transplant does not give the patient’s face the appearance of the deceased donor’s face because the underlying musculature and bones are different. Facial movements are due to the brain so the personality as expressed by the face remains that of the patient. Only the skin of the face is transferred from the donor, not the three dimensional shape nor the personality it expresses.

It’s the latest in the medical discoveries that really make you think. Mostly because so far the parts that are transplanted are either hidden (heart, liver, bone marrow) or aren’t really unique in appearance (skin grafts, hand transplants). But now an entire face. It makes you wonder how far transplanting techniques will advance. When heart transplants were pioneered by the late Christiaan Barnard in the late 60s there was naturally controversy. Don’t we all still refer to the “heart” as the place where our baser emotions take place? Doctors were said to be playing God, choosing who could and could not live. But fast forward two decades and heart transplants are now standard, saving lives when there is no other recourse.
I really wonder if we will ever transplant a brain… maybe even clone a human. Or should I have said “when” instead of “if“? Read an interesting piece from the Genetic Science Learning Center in the University of Utah about some of the issues behind cloning, relevant to other advances in science as well.
Edit: coincidentially enough, it’s been 38 years to the day of Christiaan Barnard’s first heart transplant.


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