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Princeton University developing bionic ear

July 10, 2013 6:08:20 PM PDT
It's called a bionic ear. It's created in a lab with state-of the-art technology, and one day, it could help restore hearing and help children born without ears. It could even turn us into human antennas.

Two universities in our area are experimenting with the technology.

It's created in a lab by a 3-d bioprinter. Instead of ink it uses a gel that contains a matrix of cartilage cells from cows.

The ear is based on panoramic imaging and a computer generated 3 dimensional mold.

"This is something we hope in the next 2 or 3 years we'll actually have in trials in children," said Dr. Jason Spector with Weill Cornell Medical College.

The bioengineered ear replacement could help children born without ears and people who have lost part of their ear in an accident or from cancer. Dr. Spector says the next step is to use human cartilage cells and learn to replicate them quickly, but they've proven it works in animals

"Those cartilage cells in there transform the jello into real ear cartilage -cartilage that not only looks like but feel like the ear," he adds.

Meanhwile researchers at Princeton University are also creating ears with 3D printers. But this cartilage gel is infused with silver nanoparticles that create a built-in antenna.

The so called bionic ear can sense electromagnetic signals and hear sound. The device is designed to explore what's possible if implanted in humans.

That means we would essentially be the antenna and could even connect directly with digital devices.

Direct communication between our brains and cell phones and laptops - what some are calling a digital sixth sense.

It's just one possible outcome from cutting edge research that combines biology with technology.


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