Doctors transplant a 3D printed ear made from human cells

Doctors transplant ear from human cells produced with the 3D printer AFP

This transplant was the first clinical trial to successfully demonstrate the medical application of this technology (Image: AFP)

A 20-year-old woman who was born with a small and misshapen right ear has received a 3D-printed ear implant made from her own cells.

According to 3DBio Therapeutics, a New York-based regenerative medicine company, the new ear was printed in a mold that precisely fitted the woman’s left ear.

The new ear, which was transplanted in March, will continue to regenerate cartilage tissue, giving it the look and feel of a natural ear, the company told the New York Times.

The technology was developed for people with microtia, a rare congenital condition in which one or both outer ears are missing or incomplete.

Typically, microtia patients have ears made from rib grafts or synthetic materials. Instead, this experimental process involves removing tissue from the patient’s existing ear and pulling out cartilage cells.


The new ear was printed in a mold that fitted the woman’s left ear exactly (Image: AFP)

These cells are then grown and 3D printed into the shape of the patient’s ear. The ear regenerates cartilage throughout the patient’s lifetime, and since it is made from their own cells, it is less likely to be rejected.

This transplant was the first clinical study to successfully demonstrate the medical application of this technology.

3DBio Therapeutics has not publicly disclosed the technical details of the process, citing proprietary concerns that make evaluation by outside experts difficult.

The company said federal agencies reviewed the study design and set strict manufacturing standards, and that the data would be published in a medical journal after the study was completed.

Around 1,500 babies born in the United States each year have microtia. 3DBio Therapeutics is conducting an ongoing clinical study with 11 participants testing its personalized tissue implant to replace the missing ear in these patients.

The company also told the New York Times that its technology might have potential Print other body parts like noses and rotator cuffs and eventually complex organs like liver and kidneys.

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Justin Scacco

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