Today when a child is born without ears or with severe ear deformities they may have to undergo four or more surgeries to correct the problem. This not only means months waiting for the process to be completed, but painful recoveries and significant expense. However, researchers at the University College London are about to begin a trial in which they use a 3d printer to create new ears.
Early next year researchers will start a clinical trial on children in London and Mumbai to create new ears for each of the children. Already more than a dozen children in India are waiting for the trial to begin as the need for this type of reconstruction is high. Doctors have been creating ears manually by using cartilage from the rib cage. That process will no longer be necessary if this trial is successful.
image source: 3dprint.com
Using synthetic material, researchers are now able to print ears that can be used to replace ones that are missing or deformed in children. By using these ears the four or five invasive surgeries are reduced to just one.
The process works by first printing the ear and then placing the ear under the skin of the forearm. The scaffold of the ear created by the printer is designed in a way that allows for skin and blood vessels to grow into it. After four to eight weeks, the ear is removed and attached to head. Through this process researchers are able to create a new custom ear for their patient in mere days. This is revolutionary to the process that about 100 children a year in the U.K. must endure.
3D printer image source: www.giantfreakinrobot.com