University of Louisville School of Medicine
 

Face Transplant Hand Transplant Dynamic Myoplasty Ischemia/Reperfusion Microcirculation Genetics of Skin Aging

Home Page

Research Team

Research Fellowships

Louisville Medical Center

Sister Laboratories

Local Projects

International Projects

News

Contact Us











 

Face Transplant

Frequently Asked Questions


What is a face transplant?

Could a face transplant be done today?

What expertise does the University of Louisville have in the area of face transplants?

What are the surgical issues related to human face transplants?

What are the immunological issues related to human face transplants?

What are the ethical issues related to human face transplants? 

What research was done before creation of the ethical guidelines?

Is the University of Louisville planning to do a face transplant? 

May I interview one of U of Ls facial transplantation experts?


What is a face transplant? 

A face transplant is not something that is aimed at cosmetic enhancement. Instead, this emerging treatment is intended to give people with severe facial disfigurement better use of facial features such as eyes and lips and a more normal appearance than can be achieved through current  reconstructive methods.

Back to top 

 

Could a face transplant be done today? 

Physicians and scientists already have the technical skills and experience to transplant a human face but they also need to consider a wide array of ethical and psychosocial issues. 

Back to top 

 

What expertise does the University of Louisville have in the area of face transplants? 

U of L scientists, who have conducted research in hand and face transplantation since 1995, organized the first international symposium on composite tissue allotransplantation to discuss barriers standing in the way of performing human hand transplants.

In 1998, a U of L research team demonstrated that a blend of drugs widely used in organ transplants effectively prevented skin and limb rejection in a pre-clinical animal model. Aided by this discovery, U of Ls team as well as several other teams around the world have performed more than 20 successful human hand transplants.  Louisvilles team performed the worlds first two successful hand transplants 1999 and 2001 at Jewish Hospital in Louisville.

Back to top 

 

What are the surgical issues related to human face transplants? 

The surgical techniques used to transplant a human face will be the same techniques used in current facial reconstruction.

Back to top   

 

What are the immunological issues related to human face transplants? 

The anti-rejection drugs used to prevent facial tissue from rejecting will be the same drugs used successfully in kidney, liver and more recently hand transplantation. 

Back to top 

 

What are the ethical issues related to human face transplants? 

Analyzing and evaluating the ethical and psychological implications of face transplants is a central part of U of Ls ongoing face transplant research program.

In 2004, U of Ls research team, which includes scientists from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, established ethical guidelines deemed critical to the success of the still-untried procedure. These guidelines were outlined in an article in the American Journal of Bioethics, On the Ethics of Facial Transplantation Research, which was accompanied by critiques from more than a dozen leading bioethicists, psychologists and reconstructive surgeons.

Open discussion of the ethics of doing a face transplant is essential before it is performed, said John Barker, team leader and U of Ls director of plastic surgery research.

The hopes, anxieties and emotional stability of organ transplant recipients have always posed ethical concerns. These issues become even more critical in face transplant recipients, said Osborne Wiggins, a medical ethicist on U of Ls team. At stake is a persons self-image, social acceptability and sense of normalcy.

Back to top 

 

What research was done before creation of the ethical guidelines?  

U of Ls research on the psychosocial issues in face transplantation, begun in 2000, seeks to determine the perceived benefits and risks of face transplantation and answer the key question:  Do the risks posed by  life-long immunosuppression drugs justify the benefits of receiving a new face?

Under the direction of U of L social psychologist Michael Cunningham, professor of psychology in the U of L Department of Communications and an internationally recognized expert in body image research, the team developed and validated a questionnaire called the Louisville Instrument for Transplantation (LIFT).

The questionnaire has been administered to more than 300 respondents from the following groups: 

  • Facially disfigured people (who might benefit from a face transplant)
  • Amputees (who might benefit from a hand transplant)
  • Larynjectomy patients (who might benefit from a larynx transplant)
  • Organ transplant recipients (who have direct experience living with the risks of immunosuppression)
  • Healthy individuals (who have no direct experience with the benefits or risks of transplants)
  • Reconstructive surgeons (who care for facially disfigured patients)
  • Transplant physicians (who care for patients on immunosuppression)

This research is providine new objective data about the risks individuals are willing to accept to receive a face transplant.

Back to top 

  

Is the University of Louisville planning to do a face transplant? 

Currently, there is no effort to identify, screen or recruit potential face transplant patients in Louisville. Several milestones still need to be crossed before performing the procedure, including: 

  • Selection of a hospital where the transplant will be performed.
  • Approval by an institutional review board. Such boards are charged with considering issues related to patient protection, safety and informed consent. At this time, U of Ls team has not submitted a clinical protocol to an institutional review board in the United States.
  • Identification and training of a full clinical team. This team would include head and neck reconstructive surgeons, nurse coordinators; social workers, psychiatrists and psychologists; operating room staff; a rehabilitation team (physical therapists, speech therapists, occupational therapists and a patient advocate.
  • Development of a facial tissue procurement plan with an organ procurement organization and identification of a facial tissue donor.
  • Creation of a funding strategy to pay for care of the first patients.
  • Screening and recruitment of face transplant recipients.

Since it is impossible to predict how long these steps will take to complete, it is impossible to project a time frame in which U of Ls team might perform a face transplant.

Back to top 

  

May I interview one of U of Ls facial transplantation experts? 

Because the University of Louisville team has no firsthand knowledge of the procedure that has been done in France, our experts will not be providing comments to the media or interviews at this time.

University of Louisvilles public information policy can be found at http://php.louisville.edu/advancement/ocm/public_info.php

Back to top 

 

 
2006 University of Louisville. All rights reserved.

U of L Home | U of L A to Z | Site Map | Contact


If you experience problems with this website, please e-mail charlie.brown@louisville.edu

Last Updated: February 06, 2008