Surgery to reshape the nose requires cutting and suturing, and the incisions often take a while to heal. A faster and better nose job, however, may soon replace the traditional rhinoplasty.
Researchers have already tested the non-surgical method called electromechanical reshaping (EMR) in animals.
The technique is so speedy, it should only take just five minutes to reconstruct the nose. This promising new nose job technique involves using only tiny needles and an electric current.
Unlike the traditional nose reconstruction surgery, EMR neither entails stitches and poses risk of scarring. It can also avoid common side effects patients experience such as breathing difficulty and changes to the sense of smell.
Reshaping The Cartilage
The nasal cartilages provide form and support to the nose. Although cartilage is rubbery to the touch, it is composed of tiny strands of protein known as collagen linked together by other small proteins. Thus, the cartilage is flexible but holds its shape. When heated up, the cartilage becomes flexible enough to reshape.
Brian Wong, from the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues experimented with passing current through cartilage to heat it up. They found that this reshaped the tissue albeit not by warming it, so they sought help from Michael Hill, from Occidental College.
Hill and his team found that passing current through the cartilage electrolyzes the water in the tissue, which converts the water into oxygen and hydrogen ions, or protons. As the positive charge of the protons cancels out the negative charge on the proteins, the charge density is reduced making the cartilage more malleable.
"Once the tissue is floppy, you can mold it to whatever shape you want," Hill said.
The researchers think that once the tissue is reshaped and allowed to harden for a few minutes with the electrical current turned off, the changes will be permanent. They tried the technique on rabbits and successfully altered the animals' ears from upright to bent.
Long Way To Go
The technique may seem promising but it may take a while before the method can replace surgically performed rhinoplasty. Researchers still have to make sure EMR does not result in damaging side effects before it can be tried on humans.
"It's always good to look for new ways to reduce the invasiveness of surgery but it could be tricky to move this work into human trials," said Iain Whitaker, a member of the British Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons.
"You'd need ethical and regulatory approval, and to know that it was safe."
Researchers are scheduled to present the new technique at the American Chemical Society (ACS) Spring 2019 National Meeting & Exposition.