The process is also fast, Bonassar added: "It takes half a day to design the mold, a day or so to print it, 30 minutes to inject the gel, and we can remove the ear 15 minutes later. We trim the ear and then let it culture for several days in nourishing cell culture media before it is implanted."
The incidence of microtia, which is when the external ear is not fully developed, varies from almost 1 to more than 4 per 10,000 births each year. Many children born with microtia have an intact inner ear, but experience hearing loss due to the missing external structure.
Spector and Bonassae have been collaborating on bioengineered human replacement parts since 2007. Bonassar has also worked with Weill Cornell neurological surgeon Dr. Roger Hrtl on bioengineered disc replacements using some of the same techniques demonstrated in the PLOS
The researchers specifically work on replacement human structures that are primarily made of cartilage joints, trachea, spine, nose because cartilage does not need to be vascularized with a blood supply in order to survive.
"Using human cells, specifically those from the same patient, would reduce any possibility of rejection," Spector said.
He added that the best time to implant a bioengineered ear on a child would be when they are about 5 or six 6 old. At that age, ears are 80 percent of their adult size.
If all future safety and efficacy tests work out, it might be possible to try the first human implant of a Cornell bioengineered ear in as little as three years, Spector said.
|Contact: Blaine Friedlander|