Aussie toddler Maia Van Mulligan to have a 3D printed ear, thanks to groundbreaking research by Queensland University of Technology (QUT).
Two year old Maia Van Mulligan was born with just one ear, due to a condition called Microtia. Currently she wears an external device to transmit sound to her brain, using her skull as a bone conductor.
But researchers from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) are developing 3D print prosthetic ears that will mimic natural ear cartilage for the child in the very near future. Remarkably, they intend to Maia’s own cells to grow an ear that will be surgically embedded together with a hearing implant.
Mia Woodruff of the QUT Biofabrication Group explained that the ear would be surgically implanted onto Maia’s head, eventually growing to become a “living, breathing ear construct.”
The researchers will be working together with bionics companies to further develop and refine the child’s hearing capabilities.
Research and Development for 3D Printed Ear
QUT has received $125,000 in not-for-profit and government funding to produce 3D printed genetically matched synthetic models of ears to aid children with Microtia.
The university is also collaborating with the children’s charity Hear and Say, which has contributed $25,000 toward the ear research.
According to Maureen Ross, a QUT graduate who designs 3D printed ears: “We really hope that we can make a future where every hospital might have a 3D printer so that doctors can customize everything and make prosthetics work for individuals.”
Maia’s mother Chloe Mulligan is overjoyed by this breakthrough research, and believes it will positively impact her daughter’s quality of life. She said, “I thought it was light years away in terms of this technology.”
Woodruff believes that if all goes well and adequate commercial and government support is received toward this cause, in the long run, the prosthetic ears could possibly cost less than a pair of glasses. Moreover, the technology could be leveraged to fabricate other parts of the body, for example to help soldiers injured in combat.
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