By Richard Romano on February 25th, 2013
The number of things that can be printed on a 3D printer is growing exponentially. There is some consternation over the idea of 3D printing guns, but for happier applications, researchers have been using injectable gels made from living cells to create artificial ears on a 3D printer. They look and function like natural ears. Says SciTechDaily:
To make the ears, Bonassar and colleagues started with a digitized 3-D image of a human subject’s ear and converted the image into a digitized “solid” ear using a 3-D printer to assemble a mold.
They injected the mold with collagen derived from rat tails, and then added 250 million cartilage cells from the ears of cows. This Cornell-developed, high-density gel is similar to the consistency of Jell-O when the mold is removed. The collagen served as a scaffold upon which cartilage could grow.
The researchers believe the faux ears will be a boon to the children born with the congenital deformity microtia, where the outer ear is not fully developed. The new ears will also help those who have damaged our lost the outer ear due to cancer, accident, or other cause.
The process is described in a study published online Feb. 20 in PLOS One.