Medical researchers in Australia have successfully recreated a human ear using 3D printing technology. This development is a significant advancement both in the fields of reconstructive surgery and the application of 3D printing in the medical industry.
According to this research, people with ear deformities can soon have 3D printed ears made using their own stem cells. The first 3D printed human ear was designed and created for people with existing physical deformities, mainly children suffering from congenital defects such as microtia, which usually would require complex surgery.
How is the Human Ear Created Using 3D Printing
Researchers developed a form of bio-ink using the stem cells of the patient. This bio-ink was combined with a suitable 3D printer. After developing 3D scans of the patient, a customised 3D ear was printed which offered printability and retain its physical and mechanical integrity.
However, the biggest challenge during this process was to protect the living cells during the entire process by creating the right environment before, during and after the printing process. This enabled the development of the type of cells and tissues required for a human ear.
Challenges involved in replicating a Human ear
Replicating the human ear was quite challenging for the researchers as the human ear is made up of multiple components, mainly skin, tissue and the cartilage. Unlike a prosthetic ear, which is made of a single composite material and only is used for a cosmetic reason, the 3D printed human ear needed to be composed of multiple biological elements and provide the functionality of a human ear as well.
The research team first harvested the stem cells from a discarded cartilage, which was used for the development of the bio-ink. Then the stem cells of the patient were used to grow ear cartilage. Following this, an ear was printed customised to the patient’s existing deformities and facial features.
The entire process required a dedicated customised printer, which involved the research team and the 3D printing services team working together towards achieving this medical breakthrough.
Future of 3D Printing in Medical Industry
The researchers plan to further advance their research with the development of 3D printed noses for people with deformed noses. According to the research team, the scope of using 3D printing services in the medical and healthcare sector is endless, and currently, we are just on the tip of the iceberg.
Researchers believe that 3d printing in India and other parts of the world can develop 3D printed human limbs, functional organs, human skin and tissue and much more. The medical and prosthetic industry can immensely benefit from 3D printed body parts.
For instance, organ transplantation is highly complex in India and most parts of the world due to non-availability of donors and small time frame wherein organs of a donor are viable for transplantation.
Medical 3D printing services can change this scenario. Patients will no longer need to wait for years on the waiting list to receive donor organs. 3d printing services in India can make 3D printed functional organs right before the surgery. These organs will be customised to the patient depending on various medical factors such as their blood group, pre-existing medical conditions, medical requirements etc.
3D printed limbs can also change the lives of an amputee. While prosthetics offer amputee to live normal lives, 3D printed limbs can help accident victims, war veterans, people born with physical deformities to live a normal life with functional 3D printed limbs.
The scope of 3D printing in the medical industry is endless, and we have just begun to scrape the tip of the iceberg. 3D printing in India can help to revolutionise the medial, healthcare and the prosthetic industries. At the same time, 3D printed human body parts can save lives, and allow people to live normal lives.