Replacement body parts once considered a myth have now become a reality. A US-based regenerative medicine company 3DBio Therapeutics have seen the first successful implant of a 3D-printed ear made from human cells into a living patient. This transplant was one part of a larger cutting-edge effort: the first clinical trial of human-cell-3D-printed grafts. With this advancement, we have taken a great step towards artificial tissue implant and tissue engineering.
“If everything goes as planned, this will revolutionize the way this is done,” said Arturo Bonilla, the lead surgeon on the ear reconstruction procedure, told The New York Times.
The condition developed by the patient is known as microtia. It is a congenital deformity of the ear, characterized by a small or underdeveloped external ear ranging from a small, misshapen ear to a complete absence of the external ear. In some cases, the inner ear and hearing ability are unaffected, but in other cases, there may be hearing loss.
The patient can opt for grafts made from synthetic material or personalized tissue implants that can replace the ears of such patients. It involves taking samples from the patient’s existing ear tissue, from which cartilage cells are harvested. These are then multiplied in cultures and used as bio ink to 3D-print into the shape of a new ear. This is then grafted onto the patient.
Such 3D printed ears keep regenerating cartilage over the patient’s lifetimes and are less likely to be rejected as they are made from their own cells.
The trial is still on going and the company is working with 11 patients since the possibility of failure is still possible. This is also the reason why the company has not yet made the technical details of the process public but did share the joyous news of the success of the woman’s surgery.
The company in the future aims to explore various body part replacements via 3D printing and in the long run they hope to even create replacements for complex organs such as kidney or livers.