Scientists have created a technique to grow fully formed human ears – a move that could revolutionise surgical care.
The ground-breaking investigation was a joint venture from UK and U.S. doctors who created the body part using patients’ own stem cells.
Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Edinburgh banded together to come up with the successful method, which involves a 3D scanner.
A mould – which is made of polymers that attract stem cells – is taken of the patient’s healthy ear using an Artec 3D scanner.
This mould is subsequently injected with stem cells taken from the patient’s fat.
These stem cells form the cartilage as the polymer structure breaks down – leaving an ‘ear’ in its place.
If the procedure is to be allowed in the UK, those behind the research need to apply for ethical approval from an independent group of experts.
According to Smith Sonian Magazine, the current method for creating new ears is far more invasive and risky.
Surgeons have to take cartilage from the rib, which is then shaped to resemble an ear and put under the skin on the side of the patient’s head.
The new technique focused on children suffering from microtia, a congenital deformity where the external ear is underdeveloped.
The condition can affect one or both ears and it usually has an impact on the child’s hearing.
But doctors believe the technique could go beyond microtia, and even apply to those suffering from cancer or for those who need other body parts.
The UK is home to some of the world’s best experts in stem cell therapy and is well placed to improve stem cell technology to help the lives of millions, according to the UK Stem Cell Foundation.
Stem cells are cells that can become another cell type in the body, which is why they have great potential to treat different conditions and illnesses.