Scientists at Cornell have put 3D printing to an incredible medical use: They've made an ear remarkably similar to a natural one. Using 3D images of a human ear, they printed a mold to be injected with gel containing collagen from rats' tails, HealthDay reports. Next, they added cartilage from cows' ears. "It takes half a day to design the mold, a day or so to print it, 30 minutes to inject the gel, and we can remove the ear 15 minutes later," says a researcher.
Cartilage grows around the collagen, ultimately replacing it after three months, the Cornell Chronicle reports. Scientists aim to use the technology to help children born with microtia, a condition in which the external ear fails to fully grow, though the inner ear has developed, LiveScience notes. It could also serve people who have lost their ears due to illness or accident, a researcher notes. "This is such a win-win for both medicine and basic science," says a lead author behind the project. Another medical breakthrough, a bionic eye, was approved by the FDA earlier this month.