We have all used printers to print a school paper, make copies of documents, print pictures of vacations and print coupons from a nearby retailers. But what about printing a body part. Not a picture of one but an actual new living body part?
Researches at Cornell University proven it possible by creating a replacement ear using a 3-D printer and injections of living cells.
This historical, sci-fi like, accomplishment is the first step toward growing customized new ears for children born with malformed ones, or people who lose one to accident or disease.
It's part of the hot field of tissue regeneration, trying to regrow all kinds of body parts. Scientists hope using 3-D printing technology might offer a speedier method with more lifelike results.
Three-dimensional printers, which gradually layer materials to form shapes, are widely used in manufacturing. For medicine, Atala said the ear work is part of broader research that shows "the technology now is at the point where we can in fact print these 3-dimensional structures and they do become functional over time."
From a rotating image taken of a patient, the 3-D printer produces a soft mold of the ear. A special collagen gel that's full of cow cells is injected into the mold responsible for producing cartilage. Over the next few weeks, cartilage grows to replace the collagen. At three months, it appeared to be a flexible and workable outer ear.
The days of an injured victim permanently losing an ear in a horrific car accident could soon be over.