A group of five children in China received new ears, grown on the basis of detailed three-dimensional models of healthy organs and using their own healthy cells. This is the first such case in the world medicine practice. About the work done the specialists shared in the journal
Children of 6 to 9 years of age had a congenital micro-disease characterized by underdevelopment of the auricle or its absence (anotomy). In this case, the abnormality of development was noted in children only on the one hand, so scientists were able to create highly detailed photographs of their healthy ears, which subsequently helped to recreate the pair. The success of the team of tissue engineering specialists and plastic surgeons proved that the method used by researchers can give people suffering from microtia and other similar diseases a new life.
"The results represent an amazing breakthrough in the practice of transplanting the newly created cartilaginous ear tissue through the use of a new method and a qualitative surgical procedure, "the scientists wrote in their published article.
First, scientists collected cartilaginous cells called chondrocytes, rovyh non-deformed ears, and then used a cell culture method. Using computed tomography of healthy ears, researchers created three-dimensional models around which healthy cells were placed to grow and form a new organ. Over time, the cells replaced almost the entire artificial frame. At the final stage, the scientists performed surgical operations and implanted new ears. In some cases, additional cosmetic surgery was required.
In fact, the technology of growing new organs has existed for several years, but this is the first time that it has been so effective in treating people. The very first re-created ear was implanted 30 months ago.
"Technologies for the production of cartilaginous tissue that could serve as a replacement for microtitic sites have been one of the main tasks of tissue engineering for more than two decades," said Lawrence Bonassar, professor of bioengineering at Cornell University in New York, in an interview with CNN , who did not take part in the study described today.
"This work clearly shows that new technologies for the production of tissues for the reproduction of cartilaginous ear canals will soon become a standard medical practice. The quality of the new fabric produced is not inferior to the best indicators demonstrated by modern cosmetic surgery. "
Microtia is found in 8000-10 000 births in one case. In some countries, this figure reaches 17.4 per 10,000 cases. Usually, before the beginning of treatment, a check is made to make sure that the structures of the inner ear and hearing are preserved. In case of hearing safety, the next step is to make sure that the patient has an external ear canal (if not visible from the outside), by means of a computer tomography. To small patients, the study is performed after preliminary sedation. The age at which an attempt is made to restore the external ear surgically, depends on the chosen operational technique. The method Medpor is applied from three years, Rib Cartilage Grafts (transplantation of costal cartilage) – from six. However, many surgeons recommend surgery at a later age (8-10 years), when ear sizes approach adults.
"Surgeons discussed the possibility of extracting the cartilaginous tissue from the patient and processing it into individual cellular components that could then be used to create new ones," explains Tessa Hedlock from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Studies Center who did not participate in the work under discussion.  "The fact is that for the first time these procedures were carried out at once with five patients. Results in general were successful. This is shown by long-term observations after the surgery for implantation of new auricles. "
Nevertheless, the scientists noted some" features ". During 2.5 years of observation, there was no degradation of the tissues of the artificial parts of the ear. But scientists want to be sure that they have really achieved success, and therefore will continue to monitor for another 2.5 years. In addition, in two cases, the researchers observed some distortions in the growth of the ears. This also requires additional and close monitoring.
Still, it should be acknowledged that a great step forward in the development of such treatment procedures for people with microtia was made.
"We successfully developed, created and restored the outer tissues of the ears of the selected group of patients. However, further work is required to translate this innovative technique into the mainstream of routine medical practice, "the researchers commented on.