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posted by Fnord666 on Sunday February 04 2018, @10:48AM   Printer-friendly
from the ears-to-you-kid dept.

Scientists have grown a perfectly compatible ear in a lab and grafted it onto a patient, in what they said was a world first in regenerative medicine.

The groundbreaking technique saw them use the patient's own ear cartilage cells to form a new one.

Five children suffering from a condition known as microtia, in which the external ear is underdeveloped, have undergone the experimental surgery.

The first child to have the procedure two-and-a-half years ago was showing no signs the body has rejected or accidentally absorbed the new cells, the Chinese team who developed the procedure wrote when they published their findings in the journal EBioMedicine.

Currently the widely used treatments for microtia include the use of silicone prosthetic ears, or rib-cartilage reconstruction, which has mixed results.

The new technique involves taking a scan of the child's unaffected ear, reversing the dimensions and 3D-printing a biodegradable mould punctuated with tiny holes.

Cartilage cells taken from the recipient's other, unaffected ear are then used to fill the holes while the new ear is still in the lab.

Over three months the cartilage cells begin to grow in the shape of the mould, and the mould itself begins to break down.

While this process is underway, the ear is grafted onto the recipient.

"It's a very exciting approach," Tessa Hadlock, a reconstructive plastic surgeon at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, told New Scientist, which first reported on the research.

Guangdong Zhou, et. al. In Vitro Regeneration of Patient-specific Ear-shaped Cartilage and Its First Clinical Application for Auricular Reconstruction, EBioMedicine, DOI: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2018.01.011


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04 2018, @11:45AM (6 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04 2018, @11:45AM (#632882)

    That is, before and after the operation. Something you'd expect in the summary.

    • (Score: 2) by Gaaark on Sunday February 04 2018, @12:58PM

      by Gaaark (41) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 04 2018, @12:58PM (#632900) Homepage Journal

      Doctor walks around yelling "Can you hear me now?"

      --
      --- That's not flying: that's... falling... with more luck than I have. ---
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04 2018, @02:52PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04 2018, @02:52PM (#632922)

      My guess -- Takes awhile for the subject to re-align their stereo sound image (location of a person speaking, etc) with their visual image. In the meantime, they are easy to prank-you stand to one side and speak, and they turn the wrong way to try and look at you...

    • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Sunday February 04 2018, @04:25PM (1 child)

      by Grishnakh (2831) on Sunday February 04 2018, @04:25PM (#632942)

      What about it? Your external ears have nothing to do with your actual hearing, aside from better funneling sound waves into the ear canal. You can cut your ears off and still hear just fine, just not quite as well (esp. directionally). These kids will surely experience slightly better hearing, though it'd probably be hard to actually measure objectively, and far better aesthetics so they won't be teased and tormented mercilessly by other kids, and will do much better in life overall by not looking deformed, even if the underdeveloped ears were mostly a cosmetic problem.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05 2018, @06:27AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05 2018, @06:27AM (#633160)

        Your external ears have nothing to do with your actual hearing, aside from better funneling sound waves into the ear canal.

        Oh yeah? Well your internal ears have nothing to do with your actual hearing, aside from turning the air pressure variations into electrical signals to your brain...

    • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:59PM (1 child)

      by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:59PM (#632989)

      The Science News article said it didn't improve their hearing. Also that there were indications that the ears tended to grow out of shape...though only some of them.

      So, for now at least, this has to be considered experimental cosmetic surgery. Perhaps after a bit of more work it will be more.

      OTOH, I'm not really sure just what doesn't develop properly. If it's just the external ear, then this should be a suitable fix once they get the bugs out. If the ear canal or middle ear is deformed or missing, however, it can't be anything but cosmetic.

      --
      Put not your faith in princes.
      • (Score: 1) by oldmac31310 on Monday February 05 2018, @09:44PM

        by oldmac31310 (4521) on Monday February 05 2018, @09:44PM (#633466)

        But why is there no mention of the final front ear?

  • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Sunday February 04 2018, @04:27PM (18 children)

    by Grishnakh (2831) on Sunday February 04 2018, @04:27PM (#632943)

    With this technology, they could grow new ears for people with points like Spock, or make them much larger to look sorta like a cat's (but on the sides of the head).

    I predict that in 50 years, instead of just seeing people with ear piercings, and gigantic holes in their earlobes, you're going to see all kinds of radical-looking ears.

    • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 04 2018, @04:31PM (17 children)

      by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday February 04 2018, @04:31PM (#632945) Journal

      Yes, the true test is whether people are willing to get rid of their perfectly functional ears/arms/etc. in favor of upgraded or cosmetic replacements.

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      [SIG] 10/28/2017: Soylent Upgrade v14 [soylentnews.org]
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04 2018, @05:10PM (14 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04 2018, @05:10PM (#632956)

        Can the ear be acoustically improved?

        • (Score: 3, Interesting) by takyon on Sunday February 04 2018, @05:57PM (6 children)

          by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday February 04 2018, @05:57PM (#632961) Journal

          Idk, but a major improvement would be to find a way to regenerate inner ear hair cells, which could reverse damage caused by loud noises as well as bring your hearing back to the range you had in infancy. Unfortunately, you could become susceptible to The Mosquito [wikipedia.org].

          https://www.pri.org/stories/2017-03-20/new-treatment-could-combat-hearing-loss-regenerating-hair-cells-inner-ear [pri.org]

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          • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Grishnakh on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:10PM (5 children)

            by Grishnakh (2831) on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:10PM (#632966)

            Some of us can still hear that, even into middle age.

            • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:17PM

              by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:17PM (#632969) Journal

              https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/statistics/age-which-hearing-loss-begins [nih.gov]

              I wanted to find a chart/table that lists frequency ranges for every 1-3 years, but I couldn't find that and saw this instead.

              8-16% don't experience "hearing loss" until age 70+!

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            • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Sunday February 04 2018, @07:03PM (3 children)

              by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 04 2018, @07:03PM (#632990)

              But how well? I can still hear, but there are signs that the ability is decreasing. My neighbor in his 90's had to give up playing the piano, because he couldn't even hear the rhythm anymore. (OTOH, a few decades ago a professional piano player lived just down the hill, and she was stone deaf, but still played the piano well, because it was so ingrained in her patterns. She also just pretended to read the music, so that those accompanying her could play along. This was shown one time when she accidentally turned two pages at once and didn't notice.)

              --
              Put not your faith in princes.
              • (Score: 3, Informative) by Grishnakh on Sunday February 04 2018, @08:40PM

                by Grishnakh (2831) on Sunday February 04 2018, @08:40PM (#633016)

                But how well?

                Well, I can still hear the Mosquito tone on the Wikipedia page. I can only barely hear it, but I don't know that I could hear it much better in my 20s. I can still hear NTSC TVs now, for the very rare occasion I see one, just like I could hear them back then. Usually, with hearing loss, the high frequencies go first, so I guess I'm OK.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05 2018, @01:07AM (1 child)

                by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05 2018, @01:07AM (#633086)

                Dame Evelyn Glennie [wikipedia.org] is a Scottish virtuoso percussionist. She has been profoundly deaf since the age of 12 and claims to have taught herself to hear with parts of her body other than her ears.

                -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

                • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05 2018, @06:31AM

                  by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05 2018, @06:31AM (#633162)

                  As sound is but vibration it's a perfectly credible claim. The brain expects and requires sensor input.

                  Like some blind people have learned to probe their surrounding with noise. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_echolocation [wikipedia.org]

        • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:07PM (6 children)

          by Grishnakh (2831) on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:07PM (#632964)

          Absolutely, yes. Our ears really kinda suck acoustically. Cats have far better hearing. But it's a trade-off: our ears are relatively small and out of the way. Cats' ears are enormous (relative to the size of their head) and not compatible with things like hats. We could replace someone's ears with big parabolic dish like ears, and that really should result in noticeable improvement in hearing acuity, but it'd be clumsy having these things on your head.

          Just try it for yourself though: you can notice improved hearing directionally just by cupping your hands behind your ears.

          • (Score: 2) by takyon on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:20PM (1 child)

            by takyon (881) Subscriber Badge <{takyon} {at} {soylentnews.org}> on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:20PM (#632972) Journal

            and not compatible with things like hats.

            It could work. [google.com]

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            • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05 2018, @01:23AM

              by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 05 2018, @01:23AM (#633094)

              You guys have made me think of all the images I've seen of horses wearing hats. [google.com]

              Would cats be a stretch here, people with cats?
              (Notice that I didn't say "cat owners".)

              -- OriginalOwner_ [soylentnews.org]

          • (Score: 2) by HiThere on Sunday February 04 2018, @07:13PM (2 children)

            by HiThere (866) Subscriber Badge on Sunday February 04 2018, @07:13PM (#632992)

            Actually, the ears are quite good taken as a design. The inner folds of cartilage cause time delays that facilitate locating the exact 3-D position at which the sound comes from. Cats only evolved to have 2-D hearing, but we evolved in trees, and 3-D hearing was important.

            The frequency resolution is also quite good. We aren't bats, but for an animal our size we hear high notes rather well. And we also do well with low notes. A lot of the "remarkable hearing" attributed to dogs is just that they aren't distracted thinking about other things. (If I'm "looking for a distraction" I will often notice sounds before my dog does.)

            The one real improvement we need is the ability to regenerate inner ear hair cells. A secondary one would be something to keep the ossicles and ear drum flexible. The drum tends to stiffen, and so do the joints of the bones. If you want to hear the higher notes, the best approach would probably be thin stiff hairs on the forehead. Insects manage to use "hairs" to hear quite high sounds. But be quite careful tinkering with the inner ear canal, as it's already been highly optimized over the eons. You're more likely to damage it than to improve it.

            --
            Put not your faith in princes.
            • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Sunday February 04 2018, @08:37PM (1 child)

              by Grishnakh (2831) on Sunday February 04 2018, @08:37PM (#633015)

              Actually, the ears are quite good taken as a design. The inner folds of cartilage cause time delays that facilitate locating the exact 3-D position at which the sound comes from. Cats only evolved to have 2-D hearing, but we evolved in trees, and 3-D hearing was important.

              WTF are you talking about? This is quite simply wrong. Cats have far better 3D hearing than we do; they have to, because they're small animal hunters. The parabolic dish-like shapes of their ears is very directional, and they can actively move their ears, independently, in different directions, to selectively "aim" their hearing. We can't, we can only turn our heads. We could never hope to hear and pinpoint the location of small prey the way a cat can.

              The frequency resolution is also quite good.

              Now I know you're smoking something. Humans are infamous for having lousy high-frequency hearing. Pretty much every animal can hear well over 20kHz; most humans are lucky if they can hear 15kHz. Ever heard of a "dog whistle"?

              A lot of the "remarkable hearing" attributed to dogs is just that they aren't distracted thinking about other things.

              Sorry, this one is stupid. Dog whistles, according to a quick google search, are in the 23-54kHz range. Almost no humans can hear over 22kHz (which is why the upper range for CDs is set at that), and there is absolutely no possible way you can hear above 30kHz, let alone above 50kHz, no matter how hard you concentrate. Your ears simply aren't capable of it, not now, and not when you were a kid either.

              Humans aren't completely physically inferior to other mammals, but with hearing we really are, whether you choose to believe it or not. Our advantage isn't in sensory abilities; what we're good at is 1) grasping and manipulating, thanks to our opposable thumbs and hands that we don't have to walk on since we're bipedal, and 2) long-distance running. Our vision and hearing basically suck though, even in the best human specimens, and our olfactory senses are even worse. It's OK, because we just aren't meant to be the best lone predators (like cats), we're meant to be good at using our big brains and hands to build technology and work together.

              • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04 2018, @11:13PM

                by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 04 2018, @11:13PM (#633059)

                I think what he meant was the cats only hear in black and white, while humans have the full range of spectra in our hearing, because we lived in trees.

          • (Score: 1) by oldmac31310 on Monday February 05 2018, @10:49PM

            by oldmac31310 (4521) on Monday February 05 2018, @10:49PM (#633504)
      • (Score: 2) by Grishnakh on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:04PM (1 child)

        by Grishnakh (2831) on Sunday February 04 2018, @06:04PM (#632963)

        Well, to be fair, your ears aren't really that critical for anything in life. You could cut them off and still hear, just not as well (but in today's noisy society it probably wouldn't be a problem), so if something goes wrong with your cosmetic replacements, it's not the end of the world. Your arms are far more important to your everyday quality of life.

        • (Score: 2) by KiloByte on Monday February 05 2018, @02:56PM

          by KiloByte (375) on Monday February 05 2018, @02:56PM (#633283)

          If you experiment on humans, going with a cosmetic organ first is playing it safe.

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