Doctors working with 3D BioTherapeutics successfully transplanted a 3D-printed ear made from human cells onto a woman born with microtia, an extremely rare ear deformity.
Why it matters: Using a microtia patient’s own cartilage tissue to make a transplant allows for a more flexible ear and is much less invasive than the typical surgery that’s recommended, in which cartilage is extracted from the ribs, according to CBS News.
- Up to 1,500 babies in the U.S. are born with microtia every year, “a condition where one or both ears are underdeveloped or missing entirely,” The Verge reported.
What they’re saying: The CEO and co-founder of 3DBio, Daniel Cohen, said this technology could reach all kinds of people, not just those with microtia.
- “This is a truly historic moment for patients with microtia, and more broadly, for the regenerative medicine field as we are beginning to demonstrate the real-world application of next-generation tissue engineering technology,” said Cohen, per CBS News.
- Arturo Bonilla, the ear reconstruction surgeon who led the team performing the procedure, spoke on the self-confidence benefits of having the ear despite its little to no impact on hearing, saying bullying is what usually leads microtia patients to look into medical treatments, per CBS News.
Details: To create the new appendage, doctors conducted a biopsy on the patient’s deformed ear and extracted the cells that create cartilage, called chondrocytes.
- The cartilage cells are enlarged and combined with a collagen-based bio-ink and then formed “via a 3D bioprinter into a living ear implant that matches the size and shape of a typical ear,” reports Cornell Chronicle.
- A spokesperson for 3DBio told CBS News the woman received the surgery in March and will be monitored for the next five years.