Surgeons have been successful in transplanting a 3D-printed ear made with living tissue. The groundbreaking procedure was done on a 20-year-old woman, and the transplant, called AuriNovo, was made from her own cells. The patient was born with a congenital disorder called microtia, which caused a damaged right ear. The woman got a lab-grown implant of a right ear that was 3D-printed from cells from her left ear. It had a shape that gave her two matching ears.
The Ear Transplant Will Grow and Generate New Tissue on Its Own
The regenerative medicine company 3DBio Therapeutics created the ear transplant, which will continue to grow and generate cartilage tissue after it’s been implanted. That’s supposed to give the ear a natural look and feel. 3DBio Therapeutics announced the results of the reconstructive surgery this month. The company has also begun a clinical trial that’s expected to be completed in 2028, involving 11 microtia patients who will get their own 3D printed implants. The trial will track the compatibility and long-term function of every ear transplant.
The Ear Transplant Was Patient-Specific and Intended for Surgery
There is a possibility that the ear transplant could be rejected by the immune system of the body if it sees it as a foreign object. That eventuality can also cause health complications. Scientists at 3DBio Therapeutics hope that rejection won’t occur because the implants were made from the patient’s cells. So far, other companies have used 3D printing technology to create custom prosthetic limbs using lightweight plastics and other materials. What’s new is that the ear transplant is the first known example of a 3D implant that was made from living tissue.
The 3D-printed ear was patient-specific and intended for surgical reconstruction for people born with microtia. Some 1,500 babies are born in the US with microtia annually, and the condition causes one or both ears to be underdeveloped or even missing. Microtia patients usually get new ears from silicone or rib grafts carved into the approximate shape of an ear. But with the new technology, 3DBio Therapeutics uses cells from the patient and then grows the new ear in a lab, giving the patient their unique ear shape. The hope is that this technology could be used for other body parts like noses, spinal discs, rotator cuffs, knee menisci, and other tissues.
When Mark Newstead, the Asian ceramics and artworks consultant who works for auction house Dreweatts, looked at a blue-and-gold porcelain vase sitting in the kitchen of one of his friends, he thought its colors, design, and shape looked rather familiar. His gut feeling proved right, and upon further examination, Newstead determined that the vase was a rare 18th-century ceramic piece from China’s Qing Dynasty.
The Qing Dynasty Vase Was Valued at $186,000 but Sold for Much More
Despite the valuation of the 18th-century vase at around $186,000, it was auctioned for some $1.8 million. According to Dreweatts, the two-foot-tall artifact was bought in the 1980s by an English surgeon for just a few hundred pounds. It was passed down to the son of that surgeon and displayed in his kitchen and drawing-room. This same person was Newstead’s friend, and their friendship led to the discovery of the vase. The artifact’s earlier provenance is not clear.
According to Justin Jacobs, who is a history professor at American University and studies the plunder of Chinese cultural artifacts, the vase could have been a gift from the emperor. It could have been sold under duress during the 20th century or taken as a spoil of war during either of the military’s plunders of 1860 or 1901. How the artifact actually left China will likely remain a mystery.
The Vase Has a Mark Associated With the Qianlong Emperor
There is a six-character mark that can be found on the bottom of the vase, and it was determined that it was associated with the Qianlong emperor, who ruled between 1736 and 1795 and was the Qing Dynasty’s sixth emperor. The Qing Dynasty ruled over China from 1644 to 1912 and was the country’s last imperial dynasty.
While the Qing Dynasty did not last, much of its art still remains, with porcelain being one of the era’s major art forms. The finesse of the craftsmanship of the recently discovered vase matches the descriptions of porcelain art from that period. The vessel is adorned with depictions of cranes, bats, fans, flutes, and clouds.