Jan 30, 2018 | By Benedict

Scientists in China have used 3D printing to grow new ears for five children born with an ear defect called microtia. Chondrocytes were taken from the children’s ears and used to grow new ear-shaped cartilage.

Microtia, which occurs in around one in every 5,000 live births, is a congenital deformity where the pinna (external ear) is underdeveloped or even totally absent. It is more prevalent in Hispanic, Asian, Native American, and Andean populations, and can result in hearing impairment. All in all, it’s not something you want to be born with.

Tackling microtia can be tricky. Options for patients include reconstructive surgery, which can involve approaches like taking the patient's rib cartilage to create a new ear, sculpting an artificial ear from plastic, or simply leaving the ear as it is.

A new study in China is doing things a little differently. Building upon previous research in the field, a group of scientists has carried out a study on five microtia patients aged between six and nine years old, using CT scanning and 3D printing to build a biodegradable scaffold that perfectly matches the 3D structure of each patient’s healthy ear.

Each scaffold was made by 3D printing a replica of each patient’s ear using a Z Corporation Spectrum Z510 3D printer. The 3D printed ear model was then cast using clay and silicone to produce a set of negative molds in which biomaterial scaffolds could be molded. The scaffolds used a PCL mesh as an inner core, which was wrapped with PGA unwoven fibers and coated with PLA. The inner core consisted of a 3D printed mesh.

Those scaffolds were then populated with living cells from each patient. Chondrocytes were taken from the cartilage in each patient’s microtia ear, and those cells were seeded onto the scaffold and cultured for three months. After this period, once the cartilage frameworks were generated with each patient's specific ear shape, the lab-grown ears were implanted onto the five patients.

Amazingly, the process was mostly successful. The young patients were monitored for various amounts of time, the longest follow-up being two and a half years, and four of the patients showed clear cartilage formation by six months after the new ear implantation. Three of the patients had new ears that matched the opposite, healthy ear in size and shape.

The experiment wasn’t without its hitches though. Two of the patients’ new ears showed slight distortion after surgery, and there are many limitations to the scientists’ research: growing the cells in culture remains a risky strategy since cells can divide in unpredictable ways, while using the children’s own chondrocytes itself presents problems, since their ears were abnormal and potentially diseased. The process is also expensive, since it comprises multiple stages, including surgery.

Despite this, the research could still prove important in the long run. The scientists will follow up on the patients for five years, adding to their findings as time goes on. “In summary, we were able to successfully design, fabricate, and regenerate patient-specific external ears,” the scientists say. “Nevertheless, further efforts remain necessary to eventually translate this prototype work into routine clinical practices.”

A research paper documenting the study, “In Vitro Regeneration of Patient-specific Ear-shaped Cartilage and Its First Clinical Application for Auricular Reconstruction,” has been published in EBioMedicine. Authors were Guangdong Zhou, Haiyue Jiang, Zongqi Yin, Yu Liu, Qingguo Zhang, Chen Zhang, Bo Pan, Jiayu Zhou, Xu Zhou, Hengyun Sun, Dan Li, Aijuan He, Zhiyong Zhang, Wenjie Zhang, Wei Liu, and Yilin Cao.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



Maybe you also like:


Mudassir 00923455889223 wrote at 2/3/2018 12:34:13 PM:

My baby also have this disease microtia.plz also.help.me thankful to you

Leave a comment:

Your Name:


Subscribe us to

3ders.org Feeds 3ders.org twitter 3ders.org facebook   

About 3Ders.org

3Ders.org provides the latest news about 3D printing technology and 3D printers. We are now seven years old and have around 1.5 million unique visitors per month.

News Archive