"Basically, it's like we're having to guess," Da Silveira said. "Parents want to know what their child is going to look like in the end but when they can't see it and there's no visual way to show it, they just have to trust us. And for a kid it's hard to say what the normal or acceptable appearance of a face is."
Markey and UT engineering students are applying the same 3D imaging technology used at MD Anderson to eventually help Da Silveira and other surgeons.
Researchers are in the process of collecting 3D images and measurements of Hispanic children ages 7-12 who do not have facial deformities. The group represents the largest child population treated at the center and images of them could help researchers determine what facial characteristics are considered normal or aesthetically-pleasing on the face of a Hispanic child in that age group.
After a total of 80 images are collected, the attractiveness of the photos will be rated. Researchers plan to develop statistical correlations from these ratings and provide doctors with guides or computer simulations of which facial characteristics are considered most attractive be it when a nose is shaped smaller or the width of a smile is larger.
In a sense, such advances will help put a face to Central Texas children. Along the way, they are providing Markey's students with hands-on research opportunities that they otherwise would not receive.
"If you go into a hospital and volunteer, you're not going to get this same level of interaction as I get here," said Brian Ku, who will be a senior in biomedical engineering this fall and is helping lead the task of collecting images.
Ku is among a group of students f
|Contact: Melissa Mixon|
University of Texas at Austin