Rebuilding bone in the face

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Posted: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 5:01 pm | Updated: 4:41 pm, Wed Jul 3, 2013.

Whether it's destroyed by a bullet, disease, or a bad infection, doctors have a new way to rebuild bone in the face.

Now, stem cells are giving gunshot victims, cancer patients, and others new hope.

Oral Surgeon Doctor Robert Marx examines Ramsey Hasan's new mouth. "A wisdom tooth extraction went bad. I lost a significant portion of my jaw."

Doctor Marx used a surgical technique, called In-Situ tissue engineering, to grow Ramsey a new jaw. Stem cells are harvested from the hip bone during reconstructive surgery. Cadaver bone and a special protein called bmp help those stem cells grow bone. "In here are the stem cells that the bmp is going to signal to form bone."

The components are secured with a titanium plate and, "In six months the bone is absolutely normal. Any of the cadaver bone is dissolved and replaced by the patient's own bone, stimulated by the bmp, and actually produced by the bone marrow."

Now, Ramsey's healed and he's happy with the results. "I now have a healthy gum, a healthy jaw, which is most important, and some fake teeth that don't feel fake."

Doctor Marx helped pioneer this stem cell procedure at the University of Miami. Right now, he is the only one performing it, but he is currently teaching the technique to other doctors around the country. Traditionally, bone is taken from the hip or leg and surgically implanted into the jaw. That means a longer hospital stay and longer overall recovery time.

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