Scientists Create New Lab-Grown Ears For Human Patients With Microtia

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In China, human patients, mostly children, who had deformed ear or ears known as microtia have received new ears. The researchers created these new ears by growing cartilage and implanting them.

The findings of the study were published in EBioMedicine. The development was led by scientists in China. The team presented their discovery and detailed how the ears were made, their attachment, and how well the ears are developing in the children.

Microtia, which could impact the psychological and physiological well-being of patients, affects one out of 6,000 children. In the United States, about 34,000 children have microtia. Meanwhile, in the U.K., about 7,000 people have microtia as of 2010. There is no treatment for this condition, but others have tried cosmetic surgery that could provide a synthetic ear. However, the scientists said the artificial ear is made from the rib cartilage that does not look very much like an ear, according to SiliconAngle.

To resolve this problem, the scientists develop an ear made from biodegradable material. It was filled with tiny holes, which were infused with cartilage cells from the patient’s deformed ear and grown in the lab for 12 weeks. The ear was put into a mold that was made using a 3D model of the child’s healthy ear and was grown into the shape of healthy ear cartilage, according to Medical Xpress.

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Then, the children, aged 6 to 10-years-old, received their new ears, which have not been rejected. The scientists monitored each patient after the procedure. They noted that for three of the five patients, the ears are in excellent condition and regular shape. Meanwhile, the other two had some slight shape problems.

The scientists also said that the cartilage grows over the mold as long as the child has the ear for an extended period. This process makes the ear more natural to look.

Currently, the researchers are continually monitoring the patients and will track them for more five years. They are looking for abnormal growth that could cause tumors. This is because implanted culture cells have become cancerous in studies involving animal models. They are also concerned about the shape of the ears, that might become malformed after a period. So far, they have not identified these problems, but are being cautious.