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Researchers Produce Grafts that Replicate the Human Ear

Using state-of-the-art tissue engineering techniques and a 3D printer, researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine and Cornell Engineering have assembled a replica of an adult human ear that looks and feels natural. The study, published online in Acta Biomaterialia on March 16, offers the promise of grafts with well-defined anatomy and the correct biomechanical properties for those who are born with a congenital malformation or who lose an ear later in life.


“Ear reconstruction requires multiple surgeries and an incredible amount of artistry and finesse,” said, Dr. Jason Spector, chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and a professor of surgery (plastic surgery) at Weill Cornell Medicine. “This new technology may eventually provide an option that feels real for thousands needing surgery to correct outer ear deformities.”


Many surgeons build a replacement ear using cartilage removed from a child’s ribs, an operation that can be painful and scarring. And though the resulting graft can be crafted to resemble the recipient’s other ear, it generally does not have the same flexibility.



Pictured is the intricate, left-ear plastic scaffold that was created on a 3D printer based on data from a person’s ear, anterior view (left) and posterior view (right). Credit: Spector Lab




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