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U.S. face transplant patient able to smile

SUNDAY, JAN. 15, 2012

FORT WORTH, Texas – Ten months after becoming the first person to get a full face transplant in the United States, a Fort Worth man marvels at recovering the ability of expression.

The progress of 25-year-old Dallas Wiens and the handful of other patients who have undergone the procedure is helping to make the case that it should be more widely available.

“The ability to smile and to show emotion on my face, even unintentionally, is such a natural thing,” Wiens told the Dallas Morning News. “Having a new face has changed me dramatically.”

Wiens’ face was burned off in 2008 when his head touched a high-voltage power line while he was standing in an elevated cherry picker. He was also left blind and has not recovered his sight.

He underwent more than two dozen surgeries, but they left him with a featureless face. The transplant changed that.

“I don’t look much different than anybody else,” he said.

Wiens’ case and those of two others were the subject of a study published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine. Severe deformities can be corrected in a single operation rather than through years of reconstructive surgery, the study said.

The Department of Defense funded the transplants through a $3.4 million grant with the hope of offering the procedures to wounded soldiers.


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