Cornell University researchers have developed a way of creating replacement ears by using a 3-D printer and an injection of living cells, a first step toward the ability t (one day) grow customized ears for children born with deformed ones, or for people who have lost theirs due to accident or disease.
Three-dimensional printers, which layer materials to form shapes, are used extensively for manufacturing. However, for the ear work, “the technology now is at a point where we can in fact print these 3-D structures and they become functional over time,” stated Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.
“Its part of the hot field of tissue regeneration, trying to regrow all kinds of body parts,” added Cornell biomedical engineer Lawrence Bonassar, who co-authored the research published online in the journal PloS One with Dr. Jason Spector of Weill Cornell Medical Center. “Using 3-D printing technology might offer a faster method with more lifelike results, and enable us to customize implants for whoever needs them.”
Currently, people in need of new ears turn to prosthetics that require a rod fastened to the head. Scientists, however, have now successfully been able to craft a human-shaped ear that grew with cartilage from a cow (easier to obtain than human cartilage, especially the uniquely flexible kind that makes up ears). In addition, Dr. Weill is working on the next phase: how to cultivate enough of a child’s remaining cartilage in the lab to grow an entirely new ear that could be transplanted on the spot.
“If the ears prove safe and successful, it could be possible to implant one in a human in as few as three years,” Spector said.
For a related article see http://www.examiner.com/article/labs-grow-new-body-parts-to-heal-wounded...