Doctors successfully transplanted a 3D-printed ear made from human cells onto a woman born with a rare ear defect, 3DBio Therapeutics, the regenerative medicine company behind the implant announced today in a press release† The transplant was part of the first clinical trial of the technology, and its success marks a major step forward for tissue engineering.
“If all goes to plan, it will revolutionize the way this is done,” said Arturo Bonilla, the ear reconstruction surgeon who led the team that performed the procedure. told The New York Times†
About 1,500 babies born in the United States each year have microtia, a condition in which one or both ears are underdeveloped or missing completely. 3DBio Therapeutics has an ongoing clinical trial with 11 participants testing its AuriNovo ear, a personalized tissue implant to replace the missing ear in these patients.
Typically, microtia patients have ears made from rib grafts or synthetic materials. Instead, this experimental process involves taking a biopsy from the patient’s existing ear and pulling out cartilage cells. Those cells are then cultured and 3D printed in the shape of the patient’s ear. The ear continues to regenerate cartilage throughout the patient’s life, and because it’s made of their own cells, it’s less likely to be shed, the company said. The New York Times.
It has been an important year for advancements in transplant technology thus far. In January, doctors gave a patient a heart transplant with a pig heart, though the patient died several months later. Other research groups are working on 3D-printed lungs and 3D-printed blood vessels. 3DBio Therapeutics executives said: The New York Times they thought their technology could potentially print other body parts such as noses and rotator cuffs and, ultimately, complex organs such as livers and kidneys.
Ears are simpler than organs and, unlike livers, are not needed to keep people alive, so it will be a long way to that potential future. “But it’s more realistic when you have the ear,” Adam Feinberg, a professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, told me. The New York Times.