Back in 2013, doctors in China made history by making it possible for humans to grow a new face. The story was so mind-blowing. Seventeen-year-old burn victim, Xu Jianmei, grew a new face on her chest and had it surgically transplanted on October 15th, 2013. Fortunately, the operation was a complete success.
From a southeast fishing town in China’s Fujian Province, doctors had Xu grow a new face on her chest, which they then were able to transplant onto her face. Xu has since recovered. When she was only five-years-old, Xu suffered severe burns from a fire. She was unable to get the medical attention she needed at the time because her family could not afford it, leaving her face extremely disfigured.
The burns destroyed her chin, eyelids, and part of her right ear. Doctors approached her family with the idea for the face transplant. They took blood vessel fascia, which is made up of a strong type of connective tissue, from her thigh, and implanted it in her chest, along with a skin expander and a water-filled balloon to produce enough skin for her face. The process of growing the skin took a number of months and the doctors had to make sure that the skin could stay alive in its new location before proceeding with the surgery.
“With her new face, she will be able to express herself in a more precise way,” said Dr. Jiang Chenghong, Jianmei’s sergeant, “She will even be able to blush when her emotions change.” The operation took eight hours; and after two weeks, doctors called it a success. To date, there have only been around 10 similar operations ever performed in China, including a donor face transplant that happened in 2006—however, that patient died only two years after the transplant.