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Fabricated ear maintains structure and shape

31 July 2013

Title: Design of composite scaffolds and 3D shape analysis for tissue engineered ear

Authors: Thomas M. Cervantes, Erik K. Bassett, Alan Tseng, Anya Kimura, Nick Roscioli, Mark A. Randolph, Joseph P. Vacanti, Theresa A. Hadlock, Rajiv Gupta, Irina Pomerantseva, and Cathryn A. Sundback

Journal: Royal Society Open Science

Researchers have fabricated a bioartificial ear that looks and mechanically behaves like a human one, as revealed in Journal of the Royal Society Interface today.

Lead author, Dr Thomas Cervantes explains, ‘This is the first demonstration of a full-size human ear that maintains shape and flexibility after 3 months.’

The new model, which incorporates an embedded titanium wire to maintain shape, has previously been demonstrated on a smaller scale, implanted on the back of a mouse, but this study demonstrates minimal distortion of a full-size adult ear, when embedded on a rat.

The team at Massachusetts General Hospital combined collagen from cows with ear cartilage cells from sheep, which they moulded into ear structures using 3D printed scaffolds. After 3 months implanted on the backs of male nude rats, ears which contained a thin wire framework showed much less distortion of the initial ear shape, compared with ears without wire support. 

Cervantes adds, ‘Shape and flexibility are key; tissue engineered constructs tend to distort in shape during growth, which is obviously a problem for the ear, because we are aiming to recreate a very specific shape.’

All implants were well tolerated and no exposure or extrusions occurred during 12 weeks in vivo. However, when extracted, the implants containing wire resembled a human ear, whereas implants without wire were flattened and distorted. The implants containing the titanium framework also exhibited similar flexibility to a human ear.

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