Watch This: 3-D Printing an Implantable Ear

By Breanna Draxler | February 21, 2013 12:43 pm

How do you make a human ear that looks and functions like a real one? Researchers at Cornell published the first successful process in PLoS ONE Wednesday.

Step 1: Take a laser scan of a real human ear.

Step 2: Use digitization to print an ear-shaped collagen mold using a 3-D printer.

A collagen ear, to be seeded with living cartilage cells and implanted under skin. Image courtesy of Lindsay France/Cornell University Photography

Step 3: Inject mold with gel of living cells.

Step 4: Let sit in culture for three months until cartilage grows to replace collagen.

Three months after implantation, acellular implants (A) had decreased in size, whereas cellular constructs (B) retained their original anatomic fidelity. Ear B (printed and then cultured with cells) is the definite winner. Image courtesy of Alyssa J. Reiffel et al./PLoS ONE

Step 5: Attach ear. (This step has yet to be tried, but scientists have high hopes for success since the use of human cells minimizes the likelihood of rejection. Also cartilage, even in a real ear, doesn’t need to be connected to a blood supply to survive.)

MORE ABOUT: 3-D printer, Cornell, ear
  • Alan

    Wow, just think of the possibilities, “real” breast implants is the first to come to mind. Replacement teeth? Skin for burn victims? Breast implants?

  • beverly

    For me, i’m thinking how this would be incredible for skin cancer patients like me. I’ve already had 3 different surgeries on my nose and one on my ear that took some of the cartilage. My great uncle had his entire nose removed from cancer. It’s been my worst fear.

  • Hypatia Hypatia

    Brain implants for the Congressional Party of No?


    That is amzing what people have created. I think this machine will be big in 10 to 15 years.


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