Figures: an Equipex in the field of reparatory surgery

The ‘excellence’ equipment FIGURES (Facing Faces Institute GUiding RESearch), was selected in the first round of laureates to receive funding under the French Government inventive programme “Investments for the Future” – FIGURES is a platform for research and specifically oriented to face surgery.


The objective is limited to face and cephalic surgery. The scope of research and action, with numerous partners goes far beyond just the surgical aspects. For example, it is intended to improve analysis of face surface and volumes, or to assist the surgeon's hand using robot guidance. Moreover, research is carried out in respect to graft tolerance factors, development of bio-substitutes and inserts, and taking into account function-related issues such as loss of sensation, language problems, self-perception. Studies also address ethical issues.

The objective of the platform is to improve on research efforts and to encourage innovations in experimental micro-surgery protocols and practice. Use will be made of morphological and functional imaging which will prove fundamental to assessment and implementation in terms of face reconstruction or graft surgery. Results will be made available to the local, national, scientific communities and will bolster the international leadership acquired by this maxillo-facial team of surgeons. FIGURES will also enable the implementation of training modules via a combined real case and virtual model approach.

The prime operator is the teaching hospital (CHU) at Amiens, the project being coordinated at UTC level by scientists working at the UTC-BMBI Laboratory (Bio-mechanics and Bio-engineering). "Our skills are relevant to carry out pluridisciplinary research with the clinical experts as to the consequences of disfiguration or a graft operation in maxillo-facial surgery", confirms Marie-Christine Ho-Ba-Tho, Director of the UTC-BMBI Laboratory. "Two of our research teams are engage in national and regional level programmes in the field of tissue engineering to be used for bone reconstruction and bio-mechanical substitution, such as face movement modelling, design and assessment for face prosthetics and other inserts, not forgetting the perception of faces and their expression".

Pluridisciplinary in nature, the work is shared with two other UTC laboratories. UTC-Roberval (mechanical engineering) is working on quantitative facial metrology, such as needed to assess facial mimicry. In the long term, a 4D model (i.e., including time) will be used for skin layer muscles as one of the research areas to be explored. In social sciences, the UTC-COSTECH Lab is proposing to explore the capacity of a human being to change perception-wise our vision of disfigured persons.

The first scientific results obtained relate to personalized modelling of face muscles that command our capacity to mimic (smiling, for example) using medical imaging. As a parallel move, the scientists developed and implemented facial movement analyses and measurements.

In like manner, experimental protocols were implemented to make a biaxial characterization of soft tissues (skin, muscles) as well as preliminary studies on hybrid substitutes assembled in bio-reactor vessels.

New projects are on the drawing board:

  • ERM_VISAGE designed to explore use of magnetic resonance elastographic techniques, to quantify the mechanical properties of face muscles and to analyse facial mimicry using EMG,
  • FLOWFACE to model facial fluid dynamics,
  • SILKGUIDE used to graft innovative nerve prosthetics and to measure how function control of face movements is recovered by the patient.

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