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Face transplant decision expected

26th June 2006

The world's first full face transplant could be performed in Britain if the ethical committee at a top London hospital gives the go-ahead.

Prof Peter Butler, top plastic surgeon at Royal Free Hospital, has spent 14 years researching the procedure and has spoken to 30 possible patients.

The Royal Free ethical committee met in June to begin its discussions.

A spokesman for Prof Butler stressed that even if permission is granted it would not mean a transplant was imminent - the selection process could take a year.

For the past five years Mr Butler has been researching tissue rejection and psychological issues as well as concerns surrounding identity.

Last November a French woman received a section of nose, lips and chin in a partial face transplant carried out by a team of surgeons led by Professor Jean-Michel Dubernard.

Isabelle Dinoire, 38, underwent the procedure after being mauled by the family labrador.

A 50-strong team of medics in Amiens, northern France, worked around the clock to perform the transplant. The organs were taken from a donor who was brain dead, with the family's consent.

The surgery would require the removal of eight different blood vessels, four arteries and four veins from the donor and attaching them to the patient's face by reconnecting the tissue.

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