A 20-year-old woman in the United States has become the first person to undergo a successful ear transplant with 3D printed technology.
According to New York Times, the first of its kind clinical trial was conducted by 3DBio Therapeutics - a regenerative medicine company which created an ear transplant for the patient made from her living cells. The pioneering procedure is hoped to be used to treat people with microtia, a rare congenital condition in which one or both outer ears are absent or incompletely formed.
The transplant was carried out on 20-year-old Alexa from Mexico who was born with a small and misshapen right ear. 3DBio Therapeutics explained that the ear was engineered to emulate the woman's other ear and will continue to regenerate cartilage, making it look and feel similar to a natural ear.
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The company further said that the 3D bio-printed living tissue ear implant was constructed using AuriNovo, a "groundbreaking" investigational combination product for reconstruction of the outer ear in patients suffering from microtia. As per the media outlet, the procedure was led by an ear reconstructive surgeon and the found of the Microtia-Congenital Ear Deformity Institute in San Antonio, Texas Dr Arturo Bonilla.
Following the successful transplant, Dr Bonilla said, "As a physician who has treated thousands of children with microtia from across the country and around the world, I am inspired by what this technology may mean for microtia patients and their families. This study will allow us to investigate the safety and aesthetic properties of this new procedure for ear reconstruction using the patient's own cartilage cells."
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According to New York Times, Dr Bonilla added that the approach could replace current techniques for reconstruction of the outer ear that involve taking cartilage from patients' ribs, a more invasive procedure, or the use of porous polyethylene (PPE) implants, with ears reconstructed using the new implant thought to be more flexible. He also said that he hopes that a procedure like this will help the growth of "confidence" and "self-esteem" of microtia patients.
Separately, Dr Daniel Cohen, 3DBio's chief executive, described the real-world application of the technology as "a truly historic moment". He said that he hoped the clinical trial could have potential beyond microtia.