Kolkata: A team of researchers from a state-run hospital and a university in West Bengal has claimed to have successfully used cartilage from the ears of goats to correct body deformities in at least 25 people.
Doctors of R G Kar Medical College and Hospital and scientists of West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences used that cartilage to treat Microtia (a congenital deformity of the outer ear), cleft lips and other body deformities caused by accidents.
They said that the cost of treatment in that process would be very low.
"To correct deformities and reconstruction of cleft lips, cleft palate, curled ear (microtia), one needs to undergo plastic surgeries. The process is not only expensive but also quite strenuous. There are instances when the human body does not accept plastic and silicone implants for long," plastic surgery department head at the RG Kar Medical College and Hospital Prof Dr Rup Narayan Bhattacharya said.
Veterinary surgeon Dr Shamit Nandy and microbiologist Dr Siddharth Joardar said that a hunt was underway for an easily available, flexible but strong alternative to silicon and plastic implants suitable for the human body since 2013.
Specialist doctors and other immunology experts were also included in the team.
When asked why they have chosen from the ears of goats, Dr Nandy said that they are not used for any purpose and are thrown away.
"What we found during our research is quite amazing. The cartilage is first removed from the goat's ear and then its immunogenicity is destroyed by using various chemical processes. It was found that the structure and quality of the cartilage remain intact and only cellular property is lost," he informed.
The concern of the researchers was then whether or not the human body will accept that cartilage.
Dr Nandy said that they decided to apply the goat cartilage to 25 patients having some kind of deformities (of the nose and ear structure) at the RG Kar Hospital after an experiment was conducted in animal's body.
Dr Bhattacharya said that patients underwent surgeries using goat cartilage after they gave their consent and after some time, doctors "found very good results" in most of them.
"Such problems are seen when the mother's body is deficient in folic acid. Such patients mostly come from the rural areas of North and South 24 Parganas, Bankura, Purulia and Birbhum districts (of West Bengal)," he said.
The Union Ministry of Biotechnology funded this project.
"We had sent the project report to the ministry and they have praised our work. We want to carry on with our research for another three-four years. We want to check if the goat cartilage can be used in burn injuries and leprosy wounds," Dr Bhattacharya stated.