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Living ear tissue bioprinted by 3DBio Therapeutics. Photo: 3DBio Therapeutics

A startup is applying for clinical trials of its method of 3D bioprinting living ear cartilage tissue that could be transplanted 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, c0-f0under 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.

Go deeper

4 hours ago - Science

The "war on nature"

A resident stands on his roof as the Blue Ridge Fire burned back in October in Chino Hills, Calif. Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP

Apocalyptic weather is the new normal because humans are "waging war on nature," the UN declared on Wednesday.

What they're saying: "The state of the planet is broken," said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, reports AP. “This is suicidal.”

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: Nursing homes are still getting pummeledU.S. could hit herd immunity by end of summer 2021 if Americans embrace virus vaccines, Fauci says.
  2. Politics: Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework.
  3. World: U.K. clears Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for mass rollout — Putin says Russia will begin large-scale vaccination next week.
  4. Business: Investors are finally starting to take their money out of safe-haven Treasuries.
  5. Sports: The end of COVID’s grip on sports may be in sight.

Pelosi, Schumer call on McConnell to adopt bipartisan $900B stimulus framework

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Nov. 20. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to use a $908 billion bipartisan coronavirus relief framework as a basis for jumpstarting negotiations.

Why it matters: The framework, introduced by a group of bipartisan lawmakers on Tuesday, calls for significantly less funding than Pelosi had previously demanded — a sign that Democrats are ready to further compromise as millions of Americans endure economic hardship.