updated 12/16/2008 2:29:22 PM ET 2008-12-16T19:29:22

Three previous partial face transplants have been performed, two in France and one in China:

  • Isabelle Dinoire received the world's first partial face transplant in November 2005, in Amiens, France. Dinoire was disfigured when her dog chewed her face after she had passed out from an overdose of sleeping pills. She lost part of her nose, lips, chin, and parts of her cheeks.

French doctors not only gave Dinoire, then 38, a new face from a brain-dead donor, but bone marrow cells that they hoped would prevent rejection. Dinoire still had two instances of rejection — one month after her surgery and again a year later. Last year, her doctors reported in the New England Journal of Medicine that Dinoire's recovery was remarkable and that her new face resembled and moved like the one she was born with.

  • Li Guoxing, a Chinese farmer in Yunnan, lost nearly the entire right side of his face after being mauled by a black bear in 2003. Three years later, Chinese doctors gave the 30-year-old Li a new nose, upper lip, cheek and eyebrow from a brain-dead donor.

After a few months, he could eat, drink and talk normally, and returned home to Yunnan province. Li also had multiple instances of rejection, but his doctors solved the problem by juggling his medications.

  • A 29-year-old man severely disfigured by a rare genetic disease received a transplant at a hospital near Paris in 2007. The patient, who has not been identified, had tumors that blurred his features in a face that looked almost monstrous.

Doctors transplanted a new lower face from a donor, giving the patient recognizable cheeks, a nose and mouth. Six months later, he could smile and blink. While the French patient also experienced episodes of rejection, his doctor reported Tuesday that he was doing very well and was taking only two medicines a day to keep his immune system from attacking the transplanted tissue.

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