There are tons of people around the world who suffer from disfigured faces, either due to birth defect or injuries. Fortunately, advances in medical research and technology are looking promising for the future of facial reconstruction.
A duo of researchers in Japan, one from the University of Tokyo and the other from Kyoto University, have successfully demonstrated that it is possible to grow an adult-sized ear on the back of a lab rat using stem cells.
By injecting pluripotent stem cells into an ear-shaped plastic molding beneath the skin of the lab rat, the stem cells were able to form cartilage necessary to form a human ear. The time to grow the ear took approximately two months, and the mold, which shaped the ear, dissolved as it was made from a special biological-friendly material.
This isn’t the first time that an adult human ear has been grown in the lab – but it’s a notable success that used a different approach to getting the job done. This living human ear could be ready to surgically attach to a patient with a facial defect, although there have yet to be any actual clinical trials at this point in time.
This process could reportedly be perfected as early as five years from now, allowing patients to begin undergoing surgical processes to have stem cell-grown organs grown in such a way attached to their bodies to replace deformed ones.
Because the human ear is actually living, and isn’t made out of non-biological material, it will even continue to grow with the person it’s attached to, which is a huge benefit for anyone brave enough to attempt the surgical maneuver.