Doctors Transplant Ear of Human Cells, Made by 3-D Printer

A 20-year-old woman who was born with a small and misshapen right ear has received a 3-D printed ear implant made from her own cells, the manufacturer announced on Thursday. Independent experts said that the transplant, part of the first clinical trial of a successful medical application of this technology, was a stunning advance in the field of tissue engineering.

The new ear was printed in a shape that precisely matched the woman’s left ear, according to 3DBio Therapeutics, a regenerative medicine company based in Queens. The new ear, transplanted in March, will continue to regenerate cartilage tissue, giving it the look and feel of a natural ear, the company said.

“It’s definitely a big deal,” said Adam Feinberg, a professor of biomedical engineering and materials science and engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. Dr. Feinberg, who is not affiliated with 3DBio, is a co-founder of FluidForm, a regenerative medicine company that also uses 3-D printing. “It shows this technology is not an ‘if’ anymore, but a ‘when,’” he said.

The results of the woman’s reconstructive surgery were announced by 3DBio in a news release. Citing proprietary concerns, the company has not publicly disclosed the technical details of the process, making it more difficult for outside experts to evaluate. The company said that federal regulators had reviewed the trial design and set strict manufacturing standards, and that the data would be published in a medical journal when the study was complete.