Ears Of The Future–Here Today

Orlando Cosmetic Surgery believes in blog-reporting on some of the latest research available in the feild of cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. This report is all about the newest developments in tissue regeneration for artificial ears.

Microtia is a congenital deformity that causes a child’s ears to be deformed and undersized. It occurs in approximately 1 to 4 children, per 10,000 births each year. In addition to the obvious deformity, children born with microtia often experience hearing loss due to the missing external structure.

Replacement ears are often created with “materials that have a Styrofoam-like consistency.” Sometimes, a surgeon is forced to fashion ears for a child from the child’s own rib. You can imagine that the process is miserable for the child of four or five years or younger. Sadly, many times, the ears do not look natural.

Enter, the new and amazing technology of the 3-D printing machine!

Also, enter: A team of scientist dedicated to creating regenerative tissue structures: Dr. Jason Spector and Dr. Lawrence Bonassar, of Cornell, who have been working together to bioengineer human replacement parts since 2007. They specialize! “The researchers specifically work on replacement human structures that are primarily made of cartilage — joints, trachea, spine, nose — because cartilage does not need to be vascularized with a blood supply in order to survive.”

Here is how the doctors and biomedical technologists at Cornell described the problem of creating viable, beautiful ears:

“Autologous techniques for the reconstruction of pediatric microtia often result in suboptimal aesthetic outcomes and morbidity at the costal cartilage donor site.”

In interview, the scientists summarized their many steps in the development of an almost perfect ear.

1.   “We, therefore sought to combine digital photogrammetry with CAD/CAM techniques to develop collagen type I hydrogel scaffolds and their respective molds that would precisely mimic the normal anatomy of  the patient-specific external ear.” In other words Cornell scientests used the digital printer to create a digitized 3-D image of a human subject’s ear. They then converted the image into a digitized “solid” ear using a 3-D printer to assemble a mold.

2.   They also wished to “recapitulate the complex biomechanical properties of native auricular elastic cartilage.” This is the step in which a special gel was injected into the mold. . “Using human cells, specifically     those from the same patient, would reduce any possibility of rejection,” Dr. Spector said.

“This Cornell-developed, high-density gel is similar to the consistency of Jell-o when the mold is removed. The collagen served as a scaffold upon which cartilage could grow.”

3.   Another huge advantage is that they were able to circumnavigate the problem of “the morbidity of traditional autologous reconstructions.” The tissue of the new ears does not die.

4.   In short, the Cornell team not only created ears, but they also guided them to grow cartilage to replace the collagen material used to mold them.

Lawrence Bonassar, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Cornell stated, “This is such a win-win for both medicine and basic science, demonstrating what we can achieve when we work together.”

Dr. Jason Spector, director of the Laboratory for Bioregenerative Medicine and Surgery and associate professor of plastic surgery at Weill Cornell in New York City added, “A bioengineered ear replacement like this would also help individuals who have lost part or all of their external ear in an accident or from cancer,” Spector said.

Dr. Bonassar explained the time-table for the creation of this modern miracle. “The process is also fast. It takes half a day to design the mold, a day or so to print it, 30 minutes to inject the gel, and we can remove the ear 15 minutes later. We trim the ear and then let it culture for several days in nourishing cell culture media before it is implanted.”

Naturally the the bioengineered tissues need to be tested and re-tested in every way, but if all goes as expected, the Cornell ears will be ready for real-life use in about three years.

A Strange Duality:  Printing Guns and Ears?

Guns and Ears…Is that a the name of a new rock music group? Not hardly, but both guns and bioengineered ears have been created with the new technology of 3-D printing machines.

Recently, the internet buzzed because a gun, an actual weapon capable of firing six times before falling apart, was created using a 3-D printer.

We must admit, for us, the creation of the 3-D artificial ear was a much more noble and righteous use of the 3-D printing futuristic technology.  We of the  Orlando Cosmetic Surgery, anticipate that the ears will help thousands of children and accident victims in the near future.