3-D Printing of Cartilage Growth Cells: An Innovation in Ear Reconstruction

image of 3-d printerDr. John Reinisch developed the MEDPOR® ear reconstruction technique in 1991, and has successfully provided treatment to countless microtia patients from all over the world. MEDPOR uses a biocompatible polyethylene implant to create a natural-looking ear shape, before grafting a patient’s own skin over the structure. Soon, patients of Reinisch Plastic Surgery may have access to implants crafted entirely from the patient’s own cartilage growth cells. Dr. Reinisch is currently working with two of the leading medical labs in Beverly Hills, CA, to develop a technique for 3-D printed cartilage cells, which may replace polyethylene implants altogether. Passionate about reconstructive plastic surgery, Dr. Reinisch always strives to improve and refine the treatments he provides for his microtia patients. 

Why Cartilage Cells?

A reconstructed ear made of natural cartilage cells would be a superior alternative to polyethylene implants for two reasons. Firstly, the semi-rigid tissues of the human ear are naturally composed of cartilage, so a cartilage implant would look and feel more like a natural ear. Secondly, an implant made from a patient’s own cells will be more compatible with the natural tissues of the face, resulting in faster healing time and a reduced risk of potential complications due to allergy or inflammation.

Dr. Reinisch is currently working with two leading medical labs to develop a technique for 3-D printed cartilage cells, which may replace polyethylene implants altogether.

The polyethylene we currently use is already a highly biocompatible material, but in rare cases, patients develop an allergic response to the foreign substance. An implant made from a patient’s own cartilage cells would carry no such risks.

While we currently offer rib cartilage reconstruction surgery to our patients, a laboratory-grown, 3-D printed version of the patient’s cartilage would provide patients with reduced scarring and treatment time. Rib cartilage reconstruction requires two to four separate surgeries to harvest the cartilage from living rib tissue, and it can leave patients with visible scarring on the chest. Since the cells used in the 3-D printing technique will be grown in a laboratory, significantly less tissue will need to be taken.

On the Verge of Innovation

At this time, Dr. Reinisch and Dr. Youssef Tahiri are working with two of the top medical laboratories to test the future of 3-D printed cartilage autologous implants. In the future, Reinisch Plastic Surgery can send patients’ cartilage cells to medical labs, which will then grow more cells and use 3-D printing technology to create an ear structure for implantation. This implant will offer more natural flexibility than current implant options.

This process is still in the experimental stage, but if results continue to be positive, we may soon be able to offer 3-D printed reconstructions for patients currently receiving MEDPOR implants.

Learn More About Reconstructive Surgery for Microtia

To learn more about Dr. Reinisch’s innovative approach to reconstructive plastic surgery, or to learn about the materials used in microtia treatments, contact our office at (310) 385-6090 or send us a message online. Our staff speaks several languages, including English, Spanish Mandarin, Italian, Russian, and Hungarian, and are always ready to assist patients considering microtia surgery.



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Reinisch Plastic Surgery

Beverly Hills Office (310) 385-6090