Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 10th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

New Ear's Eve
20 February 2016

New Ear's Eve

Cartilage is a tough bendy material that props up our facial features and is difficult to repair – but one day it could be printed to order. This computer design (left) contains instructions similar to those fed into ordinary desktop 3D printers. But printing living tissue has a huge challenge – keeping the unusual building material (rabbit chondrocyte cells) alive. A newly-developed bio-printer uses different coloured lines to guide its nozzles, dolloping patterns of support material (green, blue) around the cells (red) while bathing them in a nurturing environment. The new ear cartilage (right) is peppered with tiny channels that allow vital chemicals to flow during the next phase – when life takes over. It might seem strange that a human ear shape, printed out of rabbit cells, is next transplanted under a mouse’s skin but this allows researchers to see if established life might one day accept a freshly printed transplant.

Written by John Ankers

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