Doctors have grown facial bones for a boy born without them, and the entire process required only a single surgery.

Stem cells so far have been used to mend tissues ranging from damaged hearts to collapsed tracheas. Now the multifaceted cells have proved successful at regrowing bone in humans. In the first procedure of its kind, doctors at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center replaced a 14-year-old boy's missing cheekbones—in part by repurposing stem cells from his own body. ...

"This is sort of the holy grail for a number of different surgeons," says Jesse Taylor, a surgeon and researcher in the hospital's Division of Plastic Surgery and one of the procedure's lead physicians. The procedure could be used in plastic, orthopedic and neural surgeries, he notes. Some bone tissue had previously been generated from stem cells in the lab, but this marks hope for a surgical solution for those who need additional bone.

"We often find ourselves in the operating room saying, 'Man, I wish we had a little more bone,'" Taylor says. In adult patients plastic and metal have often subbed in, in the absence of bone, but as Taylor notes: "What happens if someone gets a fracture? It's another surgery." In contrast, a natural bone regrown from stem cells should heal on its own. Another alternative, bone transplants—either repurposed from the patient's body or from cadavers—have high rejection and absorption rates, leading to many unsuccessful attempts.

To create the new bones, which have become part of the patient's own skull structure and have remained securely in place for four and a half months, the medical team used a combination of fat-derived stem cells, donated bone scaffolds, growth protein, and bone-coating tissue.

Amazing. And as usual with these breakthroughs, no embryonic stem cells were used which means that no one had to die to create these bones.

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