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Printing 3D ears for people born with microtia – a congenital condition where the external ear is underdeveloped or non-existent that affects 2-3 births in 10,000 – is the subject of an Advance Queensland Scholarship for QUT PhD student Rena Cruz.
Ms Cruz, who is based at QUT Gardens Point Campus, is working on modelling a customisable ear cartilage model that can be used to print a 3D ear that matches the patient’s unaffected ear.
“Microtia is often on only one side so we can take photos of the ear unaffected by microtia and 3D print a customised ear scaffold containing the patient’s own cartilage cells which is then implanted into the patient.
“If both ears are absent, a parent's ear can be used as a model instead.”
“The 3D bioprinted scaffold would then gradually be resorbed and give way to the new cartilage.”
“My research will focus on creating a porous structure using fine fibres micrometres thick that will give more surface area for the cells to attach to and grow on.”
Ms Cruz’s research is part of the FutureHear project, a joint initiative between Associate Professor Mia Woodruff’s Biofabrication group and the not-for-profit organisation, Hear and Say.
Hear and Say executive director and founder Dr Dimity Dornan AO said the new ear would be a significant landmark for the treatment of microtia in children.
“Imagine the joy of that first look in the mirror,” Dr Dornan said.
“With Hear and Say’s implantable hearing technology, we will restore both cosmetic appeal and function, demonstrating global leadership in biofabrication to replace other parts of the body.”
She is one of three recipients of an Advance Queensland PhD Scholarship. Other recipients are Alastair Robertson for research on up-scaling the production of novel agricultural enzymes to industrial scale, and Saira Sanjida whose topic is the role of antidepressants in cancer risk and treatment outcomes.
Advance Queensland Research Fellowships were awarded to QUT early and mid-career researchers:
Advance Queensland Scholarship recipient Rena Cruz