A 15-year-old boy born without cheekbones has a new lease on life after surgeons at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital used a first-of-its-kind procedure to reconstruct the teen’s face.

They did it by using a combination of donor bone, growth hormone and the teenager’s own stem cells, The Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

Brad Guilkey was born with Treacher Collins Syndrome, which is a rare genetic condition that affects the development of bones and other tissues in the face. It’s passed down through families and is estimated to occur in 1 in 50,000 people, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Brad was born without zygomatic bones, which is the arch of bone beneath the eye that forms the prominence of the cheek. Because of the lack of this bone, the teenager was left with a “sunken-cheek” look.

In order to fix this, Dr. Jesse Taylor, the surgeon in the division of craniofacial and pediatric plastic surgery, first carved a model of the missing bones from cadaver bone.

Next, Taylor and his team injected the cadaver bone with stem cells harvested from Brad's stomach fat and a type of growth hormone, called Bone Morphogenic Protein-2, which signals stem cells to turn into bone cells.

The team then wrapped the whole construct in a piece of periosteum — the thick membrane covering the entire surface of a bone – which was harvested from Brad's thigh. Finally, they placed the bone constructs in Brad's skull.

A few months after the surgery, doctors received the news they were hoping for: CT scans showed new living bone had grown in place in Brad's skull.

Taylor said this technique gives doctors a new option for treating children and adults who have lost bone to disease or traumatic injury.

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