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September 2005 Issue

Christopher Gordon, MD, collects blood samples from each Rojas family member that he hopes will help determine the family's gene mutation.
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Extreme Makeover May Lead to Discovery of Gene Mutation

Published September 2005

Christopher Gordon, MD, is a miracle worker in the eyes of a family halfway across the world.

That's because Dr. Gordon, a craniofacial surgeon and assistant professor of plastic surgery at UC, recently traveled to Venezuela to help a family afflicted with an undiagnosed syndrome that has caused extreme deformities for more than three generations.

Dr. Gordon identified 21 Rojas family members--ages 5 to 55--who were all born with widely spaced eye sockets that have resulted in severe facial deformities and vision complications.

Working side by side with world-renowned craniofacial surgeon Fernando Ortiz Monasterio, MD, and his own protégé, Leopoldo Landa, MD, Dr. Gordon and his team completed craniofacial reconstruction on seven family members.

Surgeries varied in complexity and severity, but most were finished within two to six hours. Dr. Monasterio himself invented many of the procedures the team used to operate.

The experience has already improved the family members' outlook on life, giving them a drastic improvement in outward appearance and increasing their self-esteem.

While in Venezuela, Dr. Gordon collected patient blood samples for further analysis in Cincinnati, and will gather a second set of samples when he performs surgery on the remaining family members later this year.

With the assistance of genetics experts at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Dr. Gordon expects to determine the gene mutation that causes the deformity and establish a molecular basis for the syndrome before the end of the year.

When the gene mutation is isolated, doctors will be able to test for the disorder as soon as a woman becomes pregnant.

"We have an incredible opportunity to identify and study a syndrome that has never been diagnosed in the world," says Dr. Gordon. "This is something I've prepared for my whole life."

Dr. Gordon, who frequently travels to South American countries to do pro bono work, also performs cosmetic surgery procedures at University Pointe, UC Physicians' multispecialty practice facility in West Chester.

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