Co-lead authors Lawrence Bonassar, associate professor of biomedical engineering, of Cornell University and Dr. Jason Spector, director of the Laboratory for Bioregenerative Medicine and Surgery and associate professor of plastic surgery at Weill Cornell in New York City, said the finding gives new hope to thousands of children born with a congenital deformity called microtia.
The study, published online in the journal PLOS One, said 3-D printing and injectable gels made of living cells can fashion ears that are practically identical to a human ear. Over a three-month period, these flexible ears grew cartilage to replace the collagen that was used to mold them, the researchers said.
"This is such a win-win for both medicine and basic science, demonstrating what we can achieve when we work together," Bonassar said in a statement.
The novel ear may be the solution reconstructive surgeons have long wished for to help children born with ear deformity, Spector said.
"A bioengineered ear replacement like this would also help individuals who have lost part or all of their external ear in an accident or from cancer," Spector said.