All around the country scientists are improving the daily lives of American troops with innovative and unexpected methods.
In Boston, scientists are growing ears, bones and skin in the lab, while doctors are planning revolutionary transplants. Currently scientists are making strides for the first implants of lab-grown ears for injured troops.
Scientists have discovered prosthetic ears are not the best solution, because they require a rod or alternative fastener to attach them to an individual's head. In addition, they wear out after a couple of years and they don't look or feel natural.
However, using a computer model of a patient's remaining ear a more natural look will soon be available. Scientists are creating a titanium framework safeguarded in collagen. Pieces of cartilage from the nose or between the ribs are used to seed the scaffold. This process is nurtured for nearly two weeks in a lab dish to promote growth of the cartilage. When the cartilage is ready to be implanted a grafted piece of the skin is taken from the patient to cover the cartilage and the ear is sewn into place.
Prior to the procedure, scientists have maintained lab-grown sheep ears on the animals for about 20 weeks, demonstrating its long-term viability. Scientists have also grown anatomically correct human ears from cells and implanted them on the back of lab rats to preserve nourishment for additional research. For ears that will be used on patients, they would be grown in a lab dish.
These breakthrough innovations are made possible from taxpayer-funded research. The government created The Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, a network of notable hospitals and universities, and donated $300 million in grants in order to stimulate new treatments using science and advance plastic surgery.
Along with ears, scientists from the University of Pittsburgh are finding ways to boost muscle mass. Other breakthrough studies include scientist from the University of Pittsburg and Rice University, who are working on growing bones to fix jawbone and other facial defects.
At the Massachusetts General Hospital and Rutgers University are trying to grow eyelid muscles, in order to reduce the chances of blindness.
Researchers hope these innovative developments may reduce the number of disfigured and impaired troops across America.