A team of doctors led by a physician at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston were able to grow an artificial ear a bit earlier this year. The doctors involved in the laboratory work used structural tissue and cells from animals to "create" the full-sized ear.
When completed, the ear looked and felt real, just as if it were a normal human ear that developed naturally prior to and at birth.
Importantly, the doctors involved in the development of the artificial ear were able to say that it distorted only minimally during regular growth because of the incorporation of a thin wire frame that was used to help the ear retain its shape under all conditions.
When asked about their remarkable achievement, the doctors who were involved in the development of the artificial ear said they hoped that in the not-too-distant future they, or other doctors, would be able to apply the very same techniques to create an artificial ear using human tissue and cells.
What is interesting and encouraging about this scientific and technical advance is that the ear, once implanted on a human patient, retained its shape after three full months. It is not known if the ear remained "natural in appearance" for a longer period of time.
Meanwhile, the researchers responsible for the artificial ear claimed that its success at "remaining normal and natural-looking" was due entirely to the use of the wire frame and collagen which was taken from cows.
Clearly, this was an incredible discovery which, over time, is likely to have major impact on plastic and cosmetic surgery and on the lives of people who require effective reconstruction of damaged or lost body parts.
The accumulation of medical knowledge over the past fifty years and the incredible advances in medical technology are making it possible for developments such as "the artificial ear" to take place now, in the twenty first century.
It will be exciting to see what the future brings in the fast-developing area of medical science.