Innovation That Matters

3DBio is trialling a method for 3D-printing an artificial exterior ear | Photo source 3DBio Therapeutics

A 3D-printed ear helps those with congenital condition

Health & Wellbeing

The ear is made from a patient’s own cells and could help those born without one or both external ears

Spotted: Somewhere between 1 in 2,000 and 1 in 10,000 babies are born with an ear defect called microtia. This is when one or both of the external ears (the part on the outside of the head) is either small and not formed properly, or is missing completely (this is called anotia). Babies born with this defect can generally still hear, although their hearing may be affected to varying degrees. The condition can also affect their mental outlook and self-esteem as they grow older.

To correct the problem, surgery is usually performed to reconstruct the ears, although this requires either an invasive procedure to harvest rib cartilage or the use of porous polyethylene (PPE) implants. However, medical company 3DBio Therapeutics has recently developed an alternative in the form of a patient-specific, living tissue implant. The implant is created using 3D-bioprinting technology in which a scaffold made of collagen hydrogel encapsulates the patient’s own cartilage cells. The new ear is then surgically implanted.

To develop this solution, 3DBio not only had to create the implant, but also the entire suite of processes and technology required to support it. This includes processes to rapidly grow the cells, a therapeutic grade bio-ink, a 3D-bioprinter that allows for a sterile workflow, and technology to provide the non-permanent structural support to the biological implants.

The tissue implants are described by 3DBIO CEO and co-founder Daniel Cohen as, “a truly historic moment for patients with microtia, and more broadly, for the regenerative medicine field”. He adds that the technology “is the culmination of more than seven years of our company’s focused efforts to develop a uniquely differentiated technology platform.”

Techniques involving 3D printing have seen increased use in the health field. Springwise has recently spotted innovations that include using bioprinting to provide medical care in space, as well as 3D-printed skin grafts

Written By: Lisa Magloff



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