These days, when we think about plastic surgery, it is most often in the context of Hollywood celebrities and reality television. We live in culture where it has become commonplace for people to alter their bodies to achieve certain standards of beauty.
Dr. Angelo Leto Barone has a different view of plastic surgery. As a surgeon, Dr. Leto Barone uses plastic surgery to help patients dealing with severe ear and nose trauma. Together with his business partner Anirudh Arun, a biomedical engineer, he has plans to streamline the reconstructive process and bring plastic surgery to millions of people around the world with their company ReconstratA.
At ReconstratA, the two men are currently developing a product, AuryzoN, that they believe will transform the way plastic surgeons conduct ear and nose reconstructions. The current methods used for reconstruction are primitive and require hours of manual carving of cartilage as a result of a two-decade old process. The surgeries are often extremely expensive and can only be done by a few surgeons worldwide. With AuryzoN, all that will change.
Dr. Leto Barone and his business partner Anirudh Arun sat down with IVY Magazine to discuss his inspirational new invention and how he hopes to have an impact around the world.
Customization is the future of medicine
Dr. Angelo Leto Barone: The idea came from the frustration, as a surgeon, of not having an easy, quick, and reliable way to carve cartilage used to reconstruct the ear and the nose in patients that are either born without an ear or had the ear or nose amputated due to cancer or trauma. It was daunting to me to see that in the 21st century we still had not developed a better and faster way to carve cartilage, a method that could be simply transferred to underprivileged countries and would not be dependent on the level of skill of the surgeon. For this reason, we invented AuryzoN, a cookie cutter to expedite and render more precise the molding of ear and nose cartilage.
Anirudh Arun: Medicine is on a path towards customization and precision, both in diagnostics and therapeutics, and the medical field is rich with innovations that seek to drive physicians towards this direction. This precision has been seen in the form of refined diagnostic algorithms and genomics that take into account each person’s unique qualities, among so many other initiatives. Our contribution in this direction seeks to ‘customize’ ear and nose reconstructions by standardizing ear and nose shapes, proportions, and sizes in various categories, much like the sizes and styles of t-shirts. This customization will help surgeons construct a more precise and refined product that will ultimately increase patient satisfaction. We feel that mass customization will ultimately lead to increased patient satisfaction, as the results will be more precisely tuned towards personal preferences, which may not have been previously addressed.
ReconstratA is ready to implement these ideas
ALB: I have had the privilege to partner with Anirudh Arun, a talented biomedical engineer and now senior medical student. Together we co-founded ReconstratA, and he has been a major contributor to the project as our company’s Chief Technological Officer. With an undergraduate degree in Biological Engineering from MIT, he approached our clinical problem and developed a simple solution that we believe can transform the way that ear and nose reconstructions are done. We have worked closely together to build this project and the network of supporters and partners that will help bring our humanitarian mission closer to reality. We balance each other perfectly, complimenting each other’s skills in ways that continue to surprise us.
AuryzoN is more than just a product
ALB: We plan to have a metal prototype by the end of the year if we can get enough funding through our Kickstarter campaign. During next year we will conduct preclinical and limited clinical testing and refine designs for the final device. This will allow us to have a device we can finally bring to underdeveloped countries. We can teach local surgeons how to use it, leave supplies with them and, this way, give back to those patients who have inspired us.
AA: ReconstratA, in our eyes, is about much more than the AuryzoN product. We want the company to be a force of positive change, carrying out medical humanitarian missions across the world, bringing our devices to underprivileged hospitals, and launching educational programs to spread these procedures to all types of surgeons worldwide. We already have ideas for new technological innovations that we believe will address other problems in operating rooms, and we are eager to begin R&D using the success of AuryzoN to propel us forward. We see ReconstratA as a springboard for both medical innovation and social good.
Plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery are not one and the same
ALB: I agree with Dr. Peter Neligan’s popular statement that “Plastic Surgery requires a lot of explaining.” When people hear about plastic surgery, they immediately think of the images that the media has ingrained in our minds: cosmetic surgery. The term plastic surgery, however, comes from the Greek plastikos, which means to mold. We’re the field of surgery that allows people to restore form and function from head to toe. That said, plastic surgery can truly help patients deal with the imperfections in their bodies and faces, which can lead to severe social withdrawal. Imagine also people without an ear or nose due to devastating traumas. These patients cannot go anywhere without feeling embarrassed, inadequate, and different. Something as simple to develop as AuryzoN could allow them to live a functionally normal life.
Now is the time to get involved
ALB: For the project to continue and produce the first aluminum device to test in the operating room we need funds. Anyone can donate on the Kickstarter page for the AuryzoN project. No contribution is too small. If everyone at IVY donated 1-5 dollars (less than what people pay for a drink on a night out!), we could potentially make a huge difference in people’s lives. If our project gets funded, we will donate AuryzoN devices to hospitals across the world as part of our humanitarian mission.