Breakthrough in Bioengineering, 3D-Printed Replacement Human Ear Nearing Reality 

3D-Printed Replacement Human Ear. Credit | Microtia-Congenital Ear Institute and 3DBio Therapeutics
3D-Printed Replacement Human Ear. Credit | Microtia-Congenital Ear Institute and 3DBio Therapeutics

United States—According to researchers, they are near developing a bioengineered and 3D-printed replacement human ear that is exactly like the original and can take in all the feelings and injuries like a real ear. 

Advancements in Medical Technology 

According to engineers from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, this demonstration would particularly aid people whose ears are congenitally malformed after birth or who have lost or damaged an ear through injury. 

Challenges and Progress 

Right now, “ear reconstruction requires multiple surgeries and an incredible amount of artistry and finesse,” said senior study author Dr. Jason Spector, a professor of surgery at Weill Cornell. 

“This new technology may eventually provide an option that feels real for thousands needing surgery to correct outer ear deformities,” said Spector, who is also chief of plastic as well as the reshaping surgery at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. 

Future Implications 

As of now, surgeons normally go for tissue of ribs from the child’s own body. Consequently, this procedure is unbearable and scary. As a result, the transplant will appear as a natural ear, but its flexibility, similar to that of a real one, won’t probably be the same. 

Based on the anatomy of the ear, which is constructed from flexible cartilage, cells, chondrocytes, best known as cartilage makers, can be employed to generate a whole new ear. 

In an earlier experiment, Spector’s team took chondrocytes from animals and turned the ear-shaped collagen scaffolding in which they were placed. 

Regrettably, those grafts did not generate the shape and biology of the ear. 

Potential Benefits for Patients 

“Because the cells tug on the woven matrix of proteins as they labor, the ear contracted and shrank by half,” Spector explained in a Weill-Cornell news release. 

So, the team had to do it again, which meant returning to the drawing board. At that time, they were first able to carve a complex, layered plastic mold in the shape of the ear with a 3D printer. 

3D-Printed Replacement Human Ear Nearing Reality
3D-Printed Replacement Human Ear Nearing Reality

Subsequently, they loaded sterilized animal-based cartilage onto this framework, confirming that it wouldn’t be rejected by the immune system. 

The cartilage served as a scaffold that provided support and a basis for the formation of new tissue. 

The cartilage played a protective role for any of the new tissue that would later produce the bio-engineered ear. 

This time, Spector’s group reported recently in the journal Acta Biomaterialia that it took about three to six months for the structure to generate cartilage more accurately in a human-like shape recognized by the imprints of the ridges, valleys, and whirls of the human ear. 

Laboratory evaluation in the Ithaca Cornell campus demonstrated that the regenerated cartilage was equally flexible and elastic as typical ears, as reported by HealthDay. 

On the other hand, fake ears often are not as durable as the true ones; they tear more simply, which the scientists observed. Spector’s research team posits that the principal problem can be addressed by incorporating the chondrocytes into the mix, preferably received from the other conquered ear present. That means the transplanted replaced ear might be “biomechanically” close to the original ear, as the team believes it does.