A human-like ear from animal tissue has been grown with the help of a new development in tissue engineering.
The ear possesses the flexibility of a real ear, said the researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
They firmly believe that the technique may one day be used to help people with missing or deformed outer ears.
Tissue engineering is a growing field in medical science nowadays. In this field, substitute organs are made in the laboratory in the hope of using them to replace the damaged ones.
The US research team is currently working on artificial living ears to help people born with deformed ears or have lost them in accidents etc.
Previously the researchers had grown an artificial ear, the size of a baby’s experimented on a mouse.
“We’ve demonstrated the first full-sized adult human ear on the rat model,” said Dr Thomas Cervantes, who led the study.
It was significant for several reasons, he added.
“One – we were able to keep the shape of the ear, after 12 weeks of growth in the rat. And then secondly we were also able to keep the natural flexibility of the cartilage.”
As per the research the cells were grown on a titanium wire scaffold that is modelled on the dimensions of a real human ear, taken from CT scans.
The new experiment shows that in theory it is possible to grow up enough cells, at least in animals, to make a full-size human ear.
“In a clinical model, what we would do is harvest a small sample of cartilage, that the patient has, and then expand that so we could go ahead and do the same process,” said Dr Cervantes.
“This research is a significant step forward in preparing the tissue-engineered ear for human clinical trials” he added.
He said further that he expected the process to move into human clinical trials in about five years.