Otoplasty is the surgical alteration or restoration of the ear. For those with a congenital ear deformity or damage resulting from an accident, there has been very little that could be done to reconstruct an ear. This is because the ear’s cartilage is uniquely shaped and cannot be found elsewhere on the body. While it’s true that donor cartilage can be harvested from a patient’s rib, it’s a completely different type; making it unsuitable for the ear. Therefore, plastic surgeons have been left with few options when it comes to otoplasty… but that’s about to change.
Dr. Anthony Atala of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in North Carolina has successfully pioneered a technique to grow an actual human ear in a petri dish, using a small tissue sample from the patient’s ear. Not only will this revolutionize otoplasty and plastic surgery, but Dr. Atala states the Institute is currently working to apply this same technique to over 22 different organs and tissues.
Below is a recent clip from 60 Minutes demonstrating the growth of an ear: