China face transplant girl recovering

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A 17-year-old girl from a small Chinese fishing village has received a face transplant using tissue from her chest.

Xu Jianmei was just five when she was burned in a fire, losing her chin, eyelids and part of her right ear.

A Chinese transplant team in Fujian province built her new face using a blood vessel from her leg and a water-filled balloon to expand her skin.

It then took several months to grow the skin until it was large enough to cover her missing facial features.

Video distributed by state media agency Xinhua after last week's eight-hour surgery shows Ms Xu lying in a hospital bed, barely conscious and severely swollen, but with smooth flesh now replacing the ridged scars of her old face.

Start Quote

This week's facial surgery is the first step in 17-year-old Xu's medical care.”

End Quote Celia Hatton BBC Beijing correspondent

"With her new face she will be able to express herself in a more precise way. She will even be able to blush when her emotions change, but it will take a long time," her surgeon, Jiang Chenhong, told Chinese state media.

BBC Beijing correspondent Celia Hatton says the surgery is ground-breaking in China's medical world, where the development of cutting-edge medical technology is a state priority, and marks a first step in this 17-year-old's medical care.

Chinese teams are said to have performed several similar transplant surgeries in recent months, including creating a new nose on a car accident survivor's forehead, using a skin expander and cartilage from his ribs. That transplant was successfully completed in September.

China's first donor face transplant recipient, farmer Li Guoxing, received his new face in 2006. That was less than a year after the world's first successful face transplant recipient, Isabelle Dinoir, was presented to media in France.

However, Mr Li died less than two years later, after stopping his anti-rejection medication.

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