In a historical world first, Chinese scientists have successfully given new lab-grown ears to 5 different children. Not only that, but they were grown using the children’s very own cells.
The children, who were all between the ages of 6 and 10, were born with microtia; a condition where the shape and cartilage of their ears are underdeveloped and malformed, which causes hearing problems. While physicians can attach a fake synthetic ear to the exterior of the child’s head for cosmetic reasons, the body will often reject the fake – or it will simply look unnatural.
According to the research findings that were published in EBioMedicine, the scientists created a 3D-printed replica of the child’s ear using a CT scan. Then, by reversing the dimensions, they created a mold of the ear which they filled with cartilage cells that were taken from the malformed ear.
Over the course of 12 weeks, the cells multiplied and grew into the mold. One of the newly-grown ears was attached to the patient’s head 2 and a half years ago – another was attached just 2 months ago. Thus far, however, none of the children’s bodies have not shown any signs of rejecting the implants.
The researchers said: “In conclusion, the results represent a significant breakthrough in clinical translation of tissue engineered human ear-shaped cartilage given the established in vitro engineering technique and suitable surgical procedure.”
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