Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Surgeons Plan Face Transplant

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Surgeons Plan Face Transplant

Article excerpt

Byline: By John Von Radowitz

An American team is on the verge of carrying out the first face transplant, it was claimed yesterday.

Plastic surgeons from the University of Louisville in Kentucky are in the process of requesting formal permission to go ahead with the controversial procedure, New Scientist magazine reported.

Last year the Royal College of Surgeons published a report which said it would be "unwise to proceed" with face transplants until further research had been carried out into the risks.

New Scientist said it had learned the Louisville scientists were submitting a detailed 30-page document outlining their plans to the university's Institutional Review Board, which vets new research proposals. They plan to start screening prospective patients and looking for donors as soon as they get the go-ahead from the IRB.

Dr John Barker, director of plastic surgery research at the University of Louisville, believes he has waited long enough and the risks are worth taking.

He told New Scientist: "Caution by itself will not get us any closer. If Christopher Columbus were cautious I'd probably be speaking with a British accent."

Last year it was an open question whether Dr Barker or pioneering British surgeon Peter Butler would be the first to perform a face transplant.

The two denied they were in a race, but both were making rapid strides towards the goal. Mr Butler, from the Royal Free Hospital, said he had been contacted by potential patients from around the world.

The procedure has echoes of the 1997 thriller movie Face Off, in which John Travolta and Nicholas Cage swap identities. It involves grafting the face of a dead donor on to someone who has suffered severe disfigurement.

The transplant, which requires meticulous grafting of blood vessels and nerves, could take 24 hours. Afterwards the patient would have to rely on immunosuppressive drugs to stop the foreign tissue being rejected. …

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