Updated: Jun 20
Israeli inventors are at it again! One in every 5,000 children is born with microtia, a condition that leaves the child with at least one underdeveloped, malformed, or missing ear. On Thursday, the scientists at Technion-Israel Institute of Science announced they had successfully “printed” a fully functional ear implant that they envision will restore hearing to these children.
The man-made implant was developed using several advanced technologies—including extracting the patient’s cells and tissue engineering—and then combining it all in the organ 3D printing process. The end result is a custom-made ear implant genetically geared for the individual patient.
Professor Shulamit Levenberg led the team at Technion and worked with the staff at Sheba Medical Center on the breakthrough development.
The current treatment option for children born with microtia is a painful and sometimes dangerous surgery, where doctors take some of the child’s rib cartilage and fashion an ear implant. The procedure can not be done until the child is at least 10 years old.
This new customized “printed” ear procedure could be performed earlier in a child’s development—as young as 6 years of age. Restoring hearing to the patient—or for some, enabling them to hear for the first time—so much earlier in their development would be life-changing.
Microtia affects boys more than girls, and usually the right ear more than the left—in 90 percent of the cases. There are different levels of the condition, ranging from the ear just being smaller but still functioning to having just a lobe or there not being an ear or ear canal at all.
There might be other applications for the “printing” procedure, according to Levenberg, such as “nasal reconstruction and fabrication of various orthopedic implants.”
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