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Designing Faces

August 23, 2010

An engineering design technique can help surgeons reconstruct the delicate bones of the face.


Engineering the face…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Patients who have lost facial bones due to cancer or an injury often need reconstructive surgery. But these delicate bones are some of the toughest ones to reconstruct. Now, researchers are applying a sophisticated engineering design technique called topology optimization to this vexing surgical problem. Glaucio Paulino, a civil engineer at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, says it shows surgeons their alternatives before going into the operating room.

GLAUCIO PAULINO (University of Illinois):
The key idea is to have a technique that is tailored for the specific patient. It’s not one formula fits all.

The technique helps surgeons design a custom-made replacement from bone taken from another part of the patient’s body, like the shoulder or the hip. Eventually, Paulino says it could be used to design scaffolds for growing bone from the patient’s own tissue. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.