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A New Source of Ears


By Paul Wheeler

November 1, 1995

Researchers in Boston have engineered a mouse with a human ear growing on its back. The purpose is to create a supply of ears for people who lose their ears in accidents or who are born earless. How do they do it? Basically they mold an ear shape out of a biodegradable plastic, sprinkle human cartilage cells on the mold, and then implant the whole thing on the back of a mouse which has been engineered to not reject the foreign tissue. While the ear grows, the mouse looks a little strange but it doesn't hear any better. The really nice thing is that they can then remove the ear without killing the mouse. The scientists hope to one day grow noses and ears in test tubes. Isn't it a shame Van Gogh didn't live to see this?

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