Doctors transplant ear of human cells, made by 3-D printer
The patient, from Mexico, was born with microtia, a rare birth defect that makes the auricle or outer part of the ear small and malformed (this can also affect hearing in the ear). With more research, company executives said, the technology could be used to make many other replacement body parts, including spinal discs, noses, knee menisci, rotator cuffs and joints. reconstructive tissues for lumpectomies. Later, they said, 3D printing could even produce much more complex vital organs, such as the liver, kidneys and pancreas.
The new frontiers of biotechnology
“It’s so exciting, sometimes I have to calm down a bit,” said Dr. Arturo Bonilla, a pediatric reconstructive ear surgeon in San Antonio who performed the woman’s implant surgery. The trial was funded by 3DBio Therapeutics, but Dr. Bonilla has no financial stake in the company. “If all goes according to plan, it will revolutionize the way it’s done,” he said.
James Iatridis, who directs a spinal bioengineering lab at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, said other printed tissue implants were in the works, but he was unaware of any no other product tested in a clinical trial.
“The 3D ear implant is then a proof-of-concept to assess biocompatibility, shape-matching and shape retention in living people,” said Dr. Iatridis.
Still, the outer part of the ear is a relatively simple appendage that’s more aesthetic than functional, said Carnegie Mellon’s Dr. Feinberg. He warned that the road to solid organs – such as livers, kidneys, hearts and lungs – was still a long one. “Just going from an ear to a spinal disc is a pretty big jump, but it’s more realistic if you have the ear,” he said.
The 3D printing manufacturing process creates a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model. The technology typically involves a computer-controlled printer laying down material in thin layers to create the precise shape of the object.