In the medical field, doctors come across many cases wherein children have lost an ear due to a birth defect or an accident . A probable solution to this problem is reconstructive surgery or prosthetic (which hardly resemble the shape of an ear) and involves longs hours of painful surgery.
However, Cornell bio engineers and physicians may have found a breakthrough for this problem. The bio engineers were able to create an artificial ear that looks, feels and even functions like a real ear. The artificial ear which looks almost like a regular ear was created using 3D printing technology and injectable jell moulds.
Dr. Jason Spector, director of the Laboratory for Bioregenerative Medicine and Surgery and associate professor of plastic surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College adds, “This approach really combines the cutting edge of imaging, simple biology and our bio engineering know-how, what it does, essentially, is create an exact replica of the patient’s contralateral ear.”
According to Spector, currently there are two methods for treating the patient, both being highly painful and time consuming. The first one involves creating an implant using materials like Styrofoam. However, these materials extruding form the person can be highly dangerous and painful.
The second option is harvesting rib cartilage from the person and then shaping them in the form of an ear. However, this method involves two painful surgeries which can take a lot of time.
So, how are these bioengineered ears better?
Well, these 3D printed ears can be formed in a very short time and they are easy for the bio engineers to create. First they make a 3D model of a human ear. Then they print the ear using a 3D printer and inject a high density jell into the mould. After this they allow the cartilage to grow on to the mould and when the cartilage has grown they attach it to the person.
According to the professor, a child aged between 6 to 7 years will be perfect for this trial as their ears are almost 80% grown. Hence, even if the artificial ear fails to grow to the full extent, the artificial ear would be almost the same size of the other one. However, as the treatment is still in its developmental stage, it may take about a decade to start actual clinical trials on human beings.
This could indeed spark a whole new dimension for 3D printing and in the coming 15 to 20 years, we may even see the possibility of a 3D printed organ.
via Discovery News