Malformed ear cartilage from a local boy is continuing to help University of Akron researchers with studies that could one day let other patients grow their own ears.
Research efforts led by University of Akron G. Stafford Whitby professor of polymer science William Landis, in collaboration with Akron Children’s Hospital pediatric surgeon. Ananth Murthy, are starting to get international attention.
One member of the team, Northeast Ohio Medical University student Mark Shasti, recently presented initial findings from the research at the American College of Surgeons’ annual meeting.
Landis also is working with Dr. Noritaka Isogai, a professor and chairman of the Department of Plastic Surgery at Kinki University Hospital in Japan.
Isogai, who is a visiting professor at the University of Akron, has experience with tissue engineering to treat facial fractures and other conditions.
“If we were able to generate the ear, that would be great,” Isogai said.
For now, at least, children who are born with a defect that prevents the outer ear and ear canal from forming correctly rely on a plastic surgeon to sculpt a new ear out of their rib cartilage.
Typically, the malformed ear cartilage is discarded as medical waste after it is removed during the first of three procedures to craft a new ear.
Landis’ goal is to develop a technique in which the removed tissue — known as microtia cells — can be used to grow additional cartilage cells.
Those cells then could be seeded onto a biodegradable, biocompatible polymer “scaffold” that would provide the framework for a new ear.
Attempts have been made to grow ear cartilage with cells donated from the underdeveloped ear tissue of Kyle Figuray, 6, of Wadsworth. Initial results have been promising.
“We know what normal cartilage should yield in terms of gene expression,” Landis said. “The big question is whether the microtia cartilage also yields gene expression of normal cartilage.”
Landis and his team are seeking financial support nationwide and internationally for their work.
If laboratory and animal tests prove successful, Landis could approach the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about starting a clinical pathway toward patient use of the microtia-seeded scaffolds, possibly within two to four years.
Cheryl Powell can be reached at 330-996-3902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.