Five kids in China, between the ages of six and nine, were born with a condition called microtia, which essentially means one of their ears is underdeveloped.
In an effort help these children, Chinese scientists have been hard at work figuring out how to 3D print a ear capable of replacing the deformed ones.
Recently, their was a major breakthrough as the scientists were actually able to utilize the cells from the children to grow new ears in a 3D printed mold.
Most people who have microtia cannot hear out the deformed ear so the 3D printed ears serve more cosmetic purpose than anything else.
In order to develop the new ears, the scientists made a 3D-printed model of the children’s healthy ears and then basically reverse engineered them.
From there, they collected cartilage cells from the deformed ear and grew them in biodegradable molds for three months, before grafting the brand new ears onto the children.
It’s been two years and the kids are still healthy, meaning the ears have not been rejected by the body and the cartridge continues to grow inside the biodegradable mold, which is a major positive.
Continued success would be a great step forward when it comes to utilizing people’s own cells to grow replacement body parts.