A groundbreaking total ear reconstruction in which a new ear had grown on a soldier's arm to replace one lost by an accident was successfully carried out by the US military. It was described for the first time when such a process was carried out by the US Army. A whole new ear of cartilage was bred from the soldier's ribs.
Pvt. Shamika Burrage, a saleswoman with 1st Battalion, 35th Panzer Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Panzer Division, was involved in a car accident in 2016 when her front tire exploded. The vehicle then slipped several times, leaving Burrage head and spine injuries. More clearly, however, she had completely lost her left ear.
Although Burrage initially considered a prosthetic ear, it was encouraged to consider the unusual reconstruction. The trial was led by Lieutenant Colonel Owen Johnson III, Head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas. In addition to maintaining a replacement ear, Johnson also wanted to reopen the ear canal of Burrage, which had closed as a result of the injury.
The goal was more than just an aesthetic substitute. Johnson took autologous cartilage ̵
The resulting ear "will have fresh arteries have fresh veins and even a fresh nerve so that they will be able to feel it," said Johnson, the US Army reports. The epidermis of the forearm is now attached to the ear. It is used to cover scar tissue around the chin line, which is also due to the fall.
"The whole goal is when she's done with it, it looks good, it's sensation, and in five years, if someone does not know her, they will not notice," Johnson explained. The cultivation and growth process has already taken a year and formed under the skin of Burrage. As part of the operation, one of several phases that Johnson and his team will undertake, the closed auditory canal has been reopened and Burrage says she has not suffered any hearing loss.
There are two more surgeries that need to be completed, though the team – and their patients – are convinced that everything is going according to plan.
While it's a premiere for the US Army, it's not the first time we've seen body parts, of course. Best known is probably the so-called Vacanti Mouse, which was developed in 1997 at the Medical Faculty of the University of Massachusetts in the Department of Anaesthesiology. She saw an ear-shaped cartilage structure, which was created by seeding cells of a cow in a suitable form then implanted under the skin of the mouse.
Since then, however, new techniques for the artificial production of replacement body parts have been experimented. In 2015, Zurich scientists produced a biopolymer nose and living cartilage cells in just 16 minutes using 3D printing. However, the researchers warned that practical applications are still a long way off.