One day it may be possible to grow new body parts from human cells in the laboratory but until then we must rely on the ingenious use of other materials. Pictured is an artificial ear grown in a mould that was first injected with collagen from rats’ tails and then seeded with cartilage cells from cows’ ears. The collagen serves as a scaffold upon which the cartilage grows. When the ear has been trimmed and cultured for a few days, it becomes more lifelike and efficient than the polymer foam ears that are currently available. Developed for children born with an ear deformity known as microtia, this technique could be ready for clinical use in about three years’ time. Eventually, the research may be applied more widely to other body parts such as the nose, windpipe and the padding in bone joints.
Written by Mick Warwicker
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.