Chinese scientists have given five children new ears that were grown in a laboratory using their own cells combined with a 3D-printed biodegradable mould.
The children, aged between six and nine years, were all born with a defect in one ear known as microtia, a condition in which the external ear is small and not formed properly.
The Chinese procedure, the first of its kind, helped the scientists do something that others involved in regenerative medicine have long been trying to achieve – growing a human organ in a lab that is fully compatible on being surgically implanted.
The scientists, who published their findings in the journal EBioMedicine this month, created reversed 3D-printed replicas of the children’s normal ears and used the replicas to make biodegradable moulds full of tiny holes.
They then collected cartilage cells called chondrocytes from the children’s deformed ears and used them to grow ear-shaped cartilage with the …