Summary: The nose job is one of those procedures that is nearly synonymous with plastic surgery. Indeed, one of the very first plastic surgery procedures was in giving patients false noses that looked (for the most part) real. Rhinoplasty has come a long way since then, in no small part to constant innovation and research—though technology has played a part. The next big technology, I think, is going to be the 3D printer, and it’s already making headway into plastic surgery. According to new research, 3D printed noses (at least the cartilage in them) aren’t terribly far away.
Your Nose is Central to Your Face
When it comes to rhinoplasty procedures, a big part of the challenge is getting the look and shape of your nose right. This shouldn’t be surprising. Your nose is incredibly important to the overall look and feel of your face, providing balance and proportion. When either of those two elements are off, your face can suffer for it, even if all of the individual elements are aesthetically perfect. This means, when you find a rhinoplasty surgeon, make sure you find one who appreciates the way that all of the elements of your face work together.
It also means that rhinoplasty surgeons spend a great deal of time working on the cartilage. If you were unaware, the cartilage in your nose is basically the hard parts. Your nose doesn’t really have any bones in it. (Interestingly enough, cartilage is also what comprises the bulk of the skeletons of sharks… it’s not really related here, but it is interesting). To be fair, cartilage is pretty pliable. It can have a little bit shaved off here and there without much of a problem. The difficult part is adding to it. For the most part, nasal implants are used to do that, but they’re typically composed of silicone, which can look unnatural and (occasionally) be rejected by the body.
Your 3D Printed Nose
However, that may be changing. According to research published in Science Translational Medicine (the online version), 3-D bioprinters have been used to print a living cartilage nose implant. Innovating in all sorts of areas, 3-D printers have been used to create all sorts of stuff out of thin air—they work by layering minute sections of an object over and over again until you have the completed final object in hand. Computers are used to make sure everything prints properly, right down to the millimeter. They’re actually amazing pieces of technology, and people have used them to print everything from a working motorcycle to a human ear.
Even the researchers admit the use of this particular procedure is probably a few years off. But there are several benefits to be discussed. First, the shape of the cartilage implant is completely up to the patient and to the plastic surgeons. This means that, essentially, you can have whatever shape you want for your nose—and that it will look completely real and natural. When compared to silicone implants, this is leaps and bounds beyond what’s currently available.
This New Nose Uses Your Own Cells
Using the 3D printer also allows your plastic surgeons to, essentially, use your own cells. That’s right. Your cells are used to grow the cartilage implant. The advantage here is that, because it came from your body, there’s no risk of rejection, as there is with a silicone implant. This means that rhinoplasty will be both safer and more effective. And in case you’re thinking that there must be some kind of cumbersome, lab-intensive methodology behind this, wrap your head around this little fact: the implant was printed in only 15 minutes.
There are an incredibly number of benefits to this procedure and to this type of implant. But it’s important to note that the research is only in the initial stages. There’s still quite a bit of work to do in proving the longevity of these procedures and in making sure the implants are safe. That’s what the FDA is for and that’s what clinical trials are for. But it’s important to note exciting moments such as these, when technology seems to be offering a novel way to get things done that is not only safer, but more effective.
Rhinoplasty Remains Popular
Because it’s not like rhinoplasty is going anywhere. There are rhinoplasty surgeons in Westport, CT, and rhinoplasty surgeons in Los Angeles and in Alaska—and that’s only the United States we’re talking about. And, of course, the reason why we have all these rhinoplasty surgeons is because people want the ability to change their features—their nose in particular. A nose is somewhat unique in that it cannot be changed by diet or exercise, it can’t be tamed by cutting calories. It is what it is. And unless you have an eye for plastic surgery, it will stay that way.
Why do people care so much? After all, it’s just a nose. Well, as mentioned above, the nose is the centerpiece of the face. Not many people notice it when it’s just perfect. But if it doesn’t work with the rest of the features, the nose can become an unwelcome focal point. For those patients looking to change that focal point, the procedure may have just gotten a little easier and little more effective.