Researchers in Boston are in the final stages of testing a new technique to fabricate a fully functional human ear with a patient’s own cells.
It starts by scanning the patient’s existing ear, then using a 3-D printer to develop a plastic mold of its mirror image.
As research engineer, Tom Cervantes, says, “We can take a CT scan of any shape and then import the image into our computer programs and then be able to print that out. And so what that means we can do is take a scan of someone’s ear and then be able to take the mirror image of that and print that out.”
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Then the scientists surround the mold with a protein mixture and wire framework so the ear holds its shape. The patient’s cells are then added so that the ear will be biocompatible.
The next step is a little bizarre, as it involves letting the ear grow inside a rat.
Granted, it won’t always be this way. As the research evolves, they’ll eventually use an incubator to grow the ear.
The question is, what happens to this research when stem cell-equipped 3-D bioprinters start pumping out these ears in bulk?