The first-of-its-kind surgery combined donor bone, growth hormone and the patient's own stem cells to create new cheekbones for a boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.
The rare genetic disorder in which bones in the face and skull are underdeveloped or missing left Brad Guilkey, 15, with insufficient protection around his eyes, Jesse Taylor, the surgeon in the Division of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery who led the surgical team.
The new surgery is a better alternative than donor bone from cadavers, which can be rejected, or bone transplanted from another part of the patient's body, which can create further disfigurement, Taylor said.
"If you think about the applications, trauma is certainly one, but kids who are born with facial or cranial malformations often need bone or other tissues," the surgeon said. He also said people with cancer could also benefit.
For Brad's procedure, Taylor carved a model of the missing bones from cadaver bone, then injected the cadaver bone infrastructure with stem cells harvested from Brad's stomach fat and a type of growth hormone, called Bone Morphogenic Protein-2, which signals stem cells to turn into bone cells.
Then they wrapped the whole construct in a piece of periosteum, the membrane that covers living bone, harvested from Brad's thigh. This was to encourage the bone to make its own growth hormone. They then inserted the bone constructs into Brad's skull.