How many emotions will pass across your face today? The average human is capable of 21 distinct expressions, all finely controlled by numerous facial muscles sparked into action by nerves and supplied with energy from blood vessels. In head and neck cancer patients, removal of large areas of this complex tissue is often the only resort, leaving behind the difficult challenge of its reconstruction. Various stem cells have been tested to regenerate this tissue but the intricate mix of blood vessels, muscles and nerves has proven tricky to reproduce. Researchers have now tried grafting sheets of skeletal muscle stem cells. Following the removal of facial tissue in rodents, these grafted cells (green) developed into a variety of cell types and encircled nerve cells (red) to aid their regeneration. This translated into improved muscle contractions and whisker movements. Further research will reveal if these cells can similarly aid human facial reconstruction.
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.