Implants are becoming a thing of the past, now that it’s possible to 3D-print anything from brain tissue to teeth. While some remain dubious about the technology, Chinese scientists may convince them to think on the contrary. A Chinese lab has successfully incorporated 3D-printing methods to regrow underdeveloped ears using the patients’ own cells.
The researchers created a 3D-printed replica of each child’s normal ear… but … reversed. This replica was then used to create a mold littered with tiny holes and made out of biodegradable material. The mold was filled in with precursor cartilage cells taken from the children’s deformed ear that were further grown in the lab.
The ears grow over a 12-week process and are more restorative than cosmetic. Chinese researchers haven’t yet trialled the use of stem cells, but progress incredibly fast, which means its potential shouldn’t be far off. Five children have since undergone the experimental procedure.
“It’s a very exciting approach,” [said] Tessa Hadlock, a reconstructive plastic surgeon…“They’ve shown that it is possible to get close to restoring the ear structure.”
We’ve come a long way with reconstructive surgeries, and might I say — it’s music to my ears.
Since the discovery of gene-altering cells, it seems cancer treatments are seeing a whole new level of success. For Marian Fields, who suffered from a rare skin cancer with limited treatment options, getting better didn’t seem possible. That is, until she and her twin sister Mary Jane underwent a successful skin transplant.
Dr Jesse Selber, a plastic surgeon from the MD Anderson Cancer Centre at the University of Texas… said the surgery was “incredibly challenging and complex”.
His team of five plastic surgeons removed skin, tissue and blood vessels from Mary Jane’s abdomen and transplanted it to Marian’s back, connecting eight different arteries and veins under a microscope during surgery.
The hole in Marian’s back was 21.5in by 8.5in, making it one of the largest tissue transplantations on record.
Surgeons were concerned that the skin would be rejected and that the cancer would recur. However, because it was not the type to spread to other parts of the body, the Fields sisters remained positive.
“There was never a moment of hesitation when the option to donate skin and tissue was a possibility,” Mary Jane said.
“I had what she needed. We are two bodies with one soul. She is my other self.”
The surgery, which took 14 hours, was ultimately a success. It even provided Mary Jane with a free tummy tuck. That’s what I call selfless, sisterly love.