Japanese scientists from University of Tokyo and Kyoto University have unveiled a rat with a human-sized ear on its back, grown entirely from stem cells.
The new technique is an exciting development in the field of tissue engineering. The scientists say that the new technology could be used to help grow ears for people who were born without them, who have some type of ear deformity, or whose faces have been disfigured in some way, Discovery News reports.
While there are ethical considerations to take into account for how the stem cells are grown on the rats, the technology seems poised to help humanity.
To create the ear, the scientists take human stem cells -- "master cells" -- and place them in an ear-shaped biological tube, which is then grafted onto to the back of a rat. Over a period of two months, the cells grow into skin cartilage and the tubes dissolve.
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This could potentially open up new worlds of development in using stem cell research to regenerate human body parts.
Currently, replacement ears are sculpted from the patient's rib cartilage, an incredibly painful process which never fully allows the chest to recover, according to the Daily Mail.
Using rats to nurture and regenerate human body parts is one of several techniques that doctors are experimenting with to help people who have either lost body parts or were born without them.