Stem Cells Have Scientists Growing Ears and Noses

Stem Cells
Scientists in the British community have found a way to grow ears and noses using stem cells from body fat. The scientists have found a way to grow true to life ears and noses, through tissue engineering in a laboratory, which can be transplanted into the body with a British developed system. The growing of ears and noses from stem cells has definitely brought the British scientists a great deal of attention.

The exciting new procedure will help those suffering from abnormalities at birth, victims of accidents that need reconstructive surgery, and people born with a condition that cause the outer ear to be undeveloped, called ‘microtia’. Some scientists in the field of stem cells research say that the procedure could also benefit many types of organ transplant operations. Saying that it may lower the risk of a body rejecting the new organ it has received. The report states that the new operation could help the body accept the new tissue easier, improve stability and functionality and aid in the basic integration of the new organ.

Researchers at the University College of London and Great Ormand Street Hospital, are the first to release this ground breaking information in the journal Nanomedicine: Nonotechnology, Biology and Medicine. Scientists describe the technique as inserting an ear-shaped ‘nano-scaffold’ into a stem cell concoction, in order for the cells to duplicate the proper shape and structure. Though the scientists say that it would not aid in actually hearing, according to the Telegraph, it will be biologically the same as an ear or nose.

To date, the procedure for children who need to undergo reconstructive surgery, is a painful and rather invasive operation. The reason being that doctors have to remove the cartridge from other parts of the body, such as the ribs. UCL’s head of developmental biology, Dr. Patrizia Ferretti, said it is very useful as it removes the need for immune suppression in young children. Ferretti said of the removal of cartilage from the ribs as “a major additional surgical procedure that creates a permanent defect.”  This due to the fact that cartilage on the ribs does not grow back. Once shaping the ear or nose by hand, the surgeons then place the scaffold under the patients skin. The skin will then form itself around the mold and, if using a biodegradable polymer mold, it would simply dissolve after a period of time, leaving only human cartilage. This new, miraculous procedure will have the scientists ‘grow’ the body part instead of having to do other, more invasive, techniques. Ferretti adds that the goal is to have the synthetic component eventually disappear and leave the grafted ear or nose tissue to grow with the child.

Great Ormond Street Hospitals’ consultant in plastic surgery, Neil Bulstrode, co-authored the extraordinary research. “It is such an exciting prospect,” Bulstrode said, “If we could produce a block of cartilage using stem cells and tissue engineering, this would be the Holy Grail for our field.”

The congenital deformity called microtia, a condition that leaves the outer ear undeveloped but may leave the inner ear intact, effects thousands of children each year. Due to the underdevelopment, hearing problems may arise due to the missing external structure.

So far in the development of stem cell research, scientists have grown a small ear on a mouse’s back and last year proved it was possible to grow a human based ear using only animal tissue. The British group of scientists have definitely caused a buzz in the world of stem cell research by finding a new way to grow ears and noses in a laboratory.

By Derik L. Bradshaw


The Telegraph
Mail Online
The Telegraph