Plastic Surgery – Is Gene Therapy the Future?

Experimental genetic techniques may become the future of reconstructive surgery. It may be used to promote the growth of the tissue to fix various injuries from damaged joint cartilage in people with rheumatoid arthritis to nerves. The June issue of Plastic Reconstructive Surgery, the official medical journal of the ASPS (American Society of Plastic Surgeons) contains a review of the recent progress in gene therapy development.

In the last ten years, various researchers have developed gene therapy techniques that look promising. These promote the growth of bone, skin and other tissues, which can be used for reconstructive surgery. However, they still have many trials to overcome before these experimental techniques can be used in an actual operating room.

Gene Therapy: Will It Ever Become A Reality?

There are studies that aim to promote the growth of almost every kind of tissue needed for regenerative surgery. They believe that this type of research may become the leading strategy to develop tissues for various clinical needs. Gene therapy may potentially provide plastic surgeons with a new way to solve difficult problems that stem from the lack of sufficient tissues to correct deformities of a certain structure or area of the body. Thus, instead of relying on cosmetics to mask flaws a patient has the option to have procedures done to restore the area. For cases like burns, a plastic surgeon may be able to use genetically engineered tissue and attach it to the area of concern using skin flaps to transfer healthy skin to the area.

There Are Still Hurdles To Overcome

At present, various research groups are heatedly pursuing different types of gene therapy to regenerate skin tissue using the genes to tweak growth factors that occur during the natural process of skin healing. A certain study has developed promising results using tissue-engineered material to fix skin ulcers caused by diabetes.

Growth Factors and Bone Formation

Some groups are targeting the growth factors responsible for bone formation and shows promise as well. They use transplantation of donor bones that are genetically modified. There are also studies that show the clinical benefits of gene therapy on the joint cartilage of patients who have rheumatoid arthritis. Other studies that show possibilities exist to re-grow tendons, nerves and skin flap growth.

However, despite the progress in these areas of plastic surgery, there is still much time before these practices become part of usual cosmetic surgery procedures, as there are still technical problems that have to be addressed. Even if the glitches were resolved, researchers need to clock in more hours to develop techniques that are not only productive but also cost-effective.

Regenerative surgery

Regenerative surgery has been compared to an adolescent who is looking forward to growing up. Even though there have been an extensive amount of preclinical approaches, the translation of gene therapy from studies to clinical trials is unlikely as of now. This is mainly due to the difficulty and cost of such a step. However, in the realm of plastic surgery and cosmetics, these procedures will definitely set milestones for the creation of effective treatments to cure various diseases and injuries.