Health Beat: Mending mouths: Rebuilding jawbones with stem cells

Health Beat: Rebuilding jawbones with stem cells

Whether it's destroyed by a bullet, disease, or a bad infection, doctors now have a new way to rebuild bone in the face. Stem cells might hold the key to the future.

Traditionally, to rebuild bone in the face, you have to take bone from the hip or leg and surgically implant it.  A new procedure means a shorter hospital stay and less recovery time.

Dr. Robert Marx, an oral surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, examined Ramsey Hasan's new mouth after the procedure.

"A wisdom tooth extraction went bad. I lost a significant portion of my jaw," said Hasan, who had to have part of his jaw removed.

Marx used a surgical technique, called In-Situ tissue engineering, to grow Hasan 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. The components are then secured with a titanium plate, Marx said.

"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," explained Marx.

Now, Hasan is healed and 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," Hasan said.

Marx helped pioneer the stem cell procedure at the University of Miami. Right now, he is the only one performing it, but he's currently teaching the technique to other doctors around the country.

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DOWNLOAD and VIEW the full-length interview with Dr. Robert Marx about rebuilding jawbones with stem cells

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