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Biotechnology and health

Kids are getting replacement ears made from their own cells

January 30, 2018

Chinese researchers say they’ve grown human cells into new ears for five children.

How it works: A scaffold, created from a mirrored, 3-D-printed replica of a patient’s healthy ear, is seeded with cartilage-creating cells taken from the person’s body. First grown in a dish, the replacement ear is then implanted beneath pre-stretched skin on the side of the patient’s head.

The results: See for yourself in the images above, from one month post-op in the top left to 30 months post-op in the bottom right. New Scientist reports that the shape, size, and angle of the ears is convincing.

But: The ears don’t really look great, and it’s unclear how they’ll change over a patient’s life. Some researchers have questioned the safety of some aspects of the procedure.

Why it matters: Using tissue engineering to grow complex shapes like this is difficult. The approach may inspire new ways to grow other complex body parts, too.

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