Doctors in London have devised a way to reconstruct human ears and noses with stem cells taken from body fat, BBC News reported.
In a study published in the journal Nanomedicine, researchers from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London said they’ve successfully used fat stem cells to grow cartilage in a laboratory setting. Using ear-shaped scaffolding to ensure that the stem cells grow into the desired shape, physicians said they hope to someday be able to implant lab-grown cartilage underneath a person’s skin to correct facial abnormalities.
While more testing needs to be done before the technique is used in patients, researchers hope to use this method to help patients with conditions like microtia – a congenital deformity that can leave a child with a missing or malformed ear. Currently, the only corrective procedure available to these children involves taking cartilage from the child’s ribs – a procedure that leaves permanent scaring and requires multiple surgeries.
"It would be the Holy Grail to do this procedure through a single surgery," study author Dr Patrizia Ferretti told BBC News. "So, decreasing enormously the stress for the children and having a structure that hopefully will be growing as the child grows."
The researchers also said the technique could be useful in correcting cartilage damage in the nose.