An American biotechnology company has recently announced that it has successfully transplanted a 3D-printed human ear into a patient. Queens-based 3DBio Therapeutics printed the ear using the patient's own cells.
The patient, a 20-year-old woman, was born with a congenital defect that caused her right ear to shrink and deform. According to experts, this is a great discovery and exciting news in the field of tissue engineering.
According to 3DBio Therapeutics, the 3D-printed ear was made in a mold that perfectly fits the woman's left ear. After completion, the ear was successfully transplanted into the patient's head in March of this year. The company said the ear will continue to regenerate the cartilage tissue over time, giving it a natural ear look and feel.
“This is definitely an important topic,” Adam Feinberg said in an interview with the New York Times.
Dr. Feinberg is the co-founder of FluidForm, one of 3DBio's industry competitors, and a professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University.
On June 2, 2022, 3DBio issued a press release announcing the successful operation.
Other than that, very little information has been published about the treatment. This is understandable, given that the technology and processes are a closely guarded trade secret.
Is It Safe to Use 3D Printed Organs?
In short, it's too early to tell. Federal regulators approved the trial design and set strict manufacturing standards, according to 3DBio, and the findings will be published in a medical journal once the study is complete.
The company's larger clinical trial, which included 11 patients, is still ongoing as of this writing. As a result, it is still possible for transplants to be rejected by patients' bodies or cause other as yet unknown health problems.
However, since organs (such as the ear) are made from patients' own cells, the possibility of rejection or problems should be minimal.
3DBio was founded about seven years ago, and the most recent successful transplant is just one of recent successes in the industry.
For example, in January, doctors in Maryland successfully transplanted the heart of a genetically engineered pig into a 57-year-old man with heart disease.
This allowed the patient to live for an invaluable few more months. Besides using animal organs or 3D-printed organs, there are other developments that could be valuable.
For example, other scientists are working on procedures that could potentially extend the life of donor organs and prevent them from being wasted.
Swiss doctors have recently succeeded in transplanting a human liver into a properly preserved patient for three days, with some encouraging results. That's all great, but the concerns of the 3D-printed ear receiver are much more personal.
Patient Alexa told the New York Times she was thrilled with her new ear, which was still covered with a bandage.
Children with a similar condition known as microtia are often teased by their peers, which can lead to anxiety, sadness, and aggression.
Fortunately, Alexa told The Times that her ear never bothered her until she naturally became more self-conscious about her looks.
“You care a little more about your image when you're younger,” she said. “Some people said thoughtless things and it started to bother me.”
Until her last surgery, Alexa had "perfected" the art of covering her ear with her long hair, and most people would never really say that. But now, she said, she's looking forward to having fun with her hair, putting it in a ponytail or a bun.