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Science Nation: Medicine and Engineering Join Forces to Restore Disfigured Faces

3 minutes

(Describer) Streams of light collide to create a globe filled with water. Title: Science Nation. A doctor puts on scrubs and gloves.

[explosion]

(male narrator) It may not be clear what Ohio State University plastic surgeon Michael Miller...

(Describer) Another man conducts a meeting.

This is what we used.

(narrator) ...and engineering professor Glaucio Paulino at the University of Illinois have in common. But together, their research aims to help people with disfiguring facial injuries. You can see here an example of a patient

(Describer) Miller, with a computer model:

who may have lost part of their face from either a blast injury or a cancer.

(Describer) A structure is inserted in the space, with teeth and jaw replaced.

(narrator) With support from the National Science Foundation, Miller and Paulino are using technology called topological optimization to one day rebuild faces and lives.

(Describer) Paulino:

Topology optimization allows us to find where we should put material and where we should not. If we use this technique to optimize buildings and cars and airplanes, why not use it to optimize the human being?

(narrator) But bones, blood vessels, and tissues are more complicated than machines. Within this small space, there is functions of our vision, our smell, speech, and swallowing. Restoring all these functions is extremely challenging.

(narrator) They use mathematical formulas to model replacement facial structures customized to each patient.

(Miller) The computer is beginning to eliminate material to create the final structure based upon our design parameters.

(narrator) It will be some time before Miller will be able to use optimized replacement parts during surgery. One goal is to have patients regrow their own bones.

(Miller) I'm confident that the day will come when we can engineer bones to replace bones that someone may lose in their face.

(narrator) Paulino and Miller say it's been exciting and humbling to tap into each other's talents, and they hope the rewards for patients will be long lasting.

(Miller) To restore defects in patients who've had major loss of facial tissue, bones in the face, it creates an enormous benefit for that person.

(narrator) Using bioengineering to restore a face devastated by trauma. Now, that's an idea worthy of a smile.

(Describer) A globe turns by the title.

For Science Nation, I'm Miles O'Brien.

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Patients who have suffered devastating facial injuries sometimes go to great lengths to hide themselves from public view. At the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, civil and mechanical engineer Glaucio Paulino saw the possibilities of combining engineering and medical skills to tackle the complex challenge of facial reconstruction. Part of the National Science Foundation Series “Science Nation.”

Media Details

Runtime: 3 minutes

Science Nation
Episode 1
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 2
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 3
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 4
4 minutes
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Science Nation
Episode 5
4 minutes
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Science Nation
Episode 6
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 7
4 minutes
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Science Nation
Episode 8
4 minutes
Grade Level: 9 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 9
4 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Science Nation
Episode 10
4 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12