A startup is applying for clinical trials of its method of 3D bioprinting living ear cartilage tissue that could be implanted onto patients.
Why it matters: 3DBio Therapeutics’ product would make a difference for thousands of children born with a rare congenital deformity, but it also demonstrates the way forward for the precise manufacturing of tissue for implantation and other medical products.
Background: Children born with microtia — which occurs in roughly 1 out of every 5,000 births — never fully develop their outer ear, which is mostly cartilage. The most commonly used surgical treatment involves removing cartilage from the ribs and sculpting it into a framework shaped like an ear.
- But that can involve multiple surgeries under anesthesia for young children, which is painful and has “aesthetic results that are very limited,” says Dan Cohen, co-founder and CEO of 3DBio Therapeutics.
How it works: Using a therapeutic-grade bioprinter — a form of 3D printing that can produce tissue using bio-ink, rather than liquid plastic or metal — 3D therapeutics can print out living, ear-shaped tissue.
- The bio-ink is seeded with the patient’s own ear cartilage cells, and the final product is matched in shape for implantation.
- “You don’t have to carve out a child’s ribs, and you don’t have inpatient nights in the hospital,” says Cohen. “It can be a streamlined, outpatient procedure.”
What’s next: 3DBio Therapeutics has received orphan drug and rare pediatric disease designations from the FDA for its ear cartilage bioprinting treatment, which should speed its application for clinical trials.
The bottom line: The field of bioprinting is growing, and it could advance to the point of producing personalized organs to replace body parts as they wear out.
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