Facial wounds can be the most devastating injury sustained by any US servicemember and it seems the federal government understands this as well, because in 2008 it created the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM).
Marilyn Marchione at the Associated Press reports that AFIRM then poured $300 million in grants to top US hospitals that would use the money to advance cutting-edge plastic surgery.
Marchione mentions several astonishing breakthroughs, but this ear grown from a patient’s own cells is something doctors have been working for 20 years to achieve. The Director of Tissue Engineering at Massachusetts General Hospital, Cathryn Sundback, thinks her team has finally done it.
Using a computer model of a patient’s remaining ear, scientists craft a titanium framework covered in collagen, the stuff that gives skin elasticity and strength.
They take a snip of cartilage from inside the nose or between the ribs and seed the scaffold with these cells. This is incubated for about two weeks in a lab dish to grow more cartilage. When it’s ready to implant, a skin graft is taken from the patient to cover the cartilage and the ear is stitched into place.
Below are some AP pictures of the process.
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