3D Printed Ears
Scientists broke new ground in medicine: They proliferated a tissue sample taken from a patient, used a 3D printer to build the tissue in the form of an, and implanted the ear in the same patient. This is considered a first in tissue engineering and marks the beginning of a new era in regenerative medicine. Experts say there is no longer any doubt concerning the possibility of this technology, they just are not sure when it will become widespread.
Researchers extracted cartilage tissue cells from the ear of a 20-year-old person with microtia, which is a birth defect in which the outer ear is deformed or completely absent. They expanded the cells using special technology, then used a 3D bioprinter and a collagen-based “biological ink” to shape the material into a living ear implant. The bioprint, produced exactly in the same size and shape as the patient’s other ear, was then surgically implanted under the patient’s skin. The impressive success of the procedure blossoms considerable hope for microtia patients and their families. One current microtia treatment involves removing cartilage tissue from the patient’s rib cage, carving it into the form of an ear, and implanting it back into the patient.
In fact, the new bioprinted ear can grow by producing new cartilage tissue. The researchers think the technology can also be used for other parts of the body including vertebral discs, nose and some joint ligaments, as well as in the treatment of aesthetic or traumatic defects. However, this technique is not yet possible to produce and implant more complex and functional structures such as internal organs.
The company that developed and performed the operation, supported by Cornell University, still refrains from giving more details about the procedure, as clinical trials involving 11 patients still continue.
- 1. https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2022/06/cornellian-founded-company-implants-3d-bioprinted-ear
- 2. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/02/health/ear-transplant-3d-printer.html