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The change would not affect regulation of heart valves, bone and other tissue implants or transplants, which are overseen by the Food and Drug Administration. Instead, it would cover transplants of complex tissues such as a combination of bone and muscle involving blood vessels -- like a hand or face.
Many doctors and bioethicists long objected to face and hand transplants because patients must take drugs for the rest of their lives to prevent rejection, which can raise their risk of cancer and other problems. The risk wasn't considered worth the benefit for operations that are not life-saving as heart or liver transplants are.
But the objections have softened as face transplants have been so successful and greatly improved quality of life.
The most recent recipient is Charla Nash, a Connecticut woman mauled by a chimpanzee. She had a face transplant last May.
Now, "she's feeling a lot of the face. She can start to move on one side. She's able to talk better. Her spirits are great," said Pomahac, her surgeon.
Other face transplant recipients go out in public, enjoy eating normal food for the first time in years, and some have even become advocates for the procedure.
So far, only two face transplant-related deaths have been reported. One was a Chinese man who reportedly was not given or did not take medicines to prevent his body from rejecting his new face. The other was in Paris, a man who received a face and a double hand transplant. He suffered a heart attack during surgery for a complication.
Proposed rule: http://1.usa.gov/wsExRb
Chimp attack woman: http://bit.ly/kcxTfi
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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