Boston researchers have successfully engineered an artificial ear made from animal cells and tissues. The ear, created by scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital, may point the way to one day growing new ears using a patient's own cells and tissues.
"This is the first demonstration of a full-size human ear that maintains shape and flexibility after 3 months," said the researchers, who detailed their work in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.
Previously, the team had created a smaller ear and implanted it on the back of a mouse. The new full-sized ear contains a metal wire frame to hold its shape.
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Lead researcher Thomas Cervantes, M.D., of the Department of Surgery at MGH, told the BBC the research is a "significant step forward in preparing the tissue-engineered ear for human clinical trials," which could start in about 5 years.
"Engineered cartilage is a promising option for auricular reconstruction," the researchers said. "We have previously demonstrated that a titanium wire framework within a composite collagen ear-shaped scaffold …. The [new] ear geometry was redesigned to achieve a more accurate aesthetic result."
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