Doctors in China have given a teenage girl a new face after successfully growing it on her breast.
Xu Jianmei, 17, was severely burned in a house fire at just 5 years old, and up until the face transplant, she says she was unable to properly smile. The girl, who is from a small Chinese fishing village, was never properly treated for her burns at the time of the fire 12 years ago because her parents couldn’t afford the medical bills.
Using a blood vessel from her leg and a water-filled balloon to expand her skin, doctors formed the face and grew it on the girl’s breast for several months until it was big enough to fit on her face.
"With her new face she will be able to express herself in a more precise way. She will even be able to blush when her emotions change, but it will take a long time," said surgeon Jiang Chenhong. "First, we took a piece of blood vessel fascia from her thigh and implanted it in her chest. Then we inserted a skin expander beneath the part of skin where the blood vessel fascia was planted, so that the part could expand and produce enough skin for her new face.”
The eight-hour procedure leaves the girl with much scarring and bruising, but doctors say that she will recover within a few weeks.
Similar procedures have been done in China, most notably when a car accident victim had a new nose grown on his forehead.