Toddler Maia Van Mulligan was born with just one ear, but thanks to world-first Queensland research she could soon be fitted with a 3D printed one.
The Queensland University of Technology has received $125,000 in state government and not-for-profit funding to develop prosthetic ears that mimic cartilage tissue.
Researchers believe the products are a world first and the ears could be available to buy in the next one or two years.
QUT Associate Professor Mia Woodruff said although the project was in its infancy, she was confident that with commercial and government support, the prosthetic ears could eventually be sold for less than a pair of glasses.
Maia Van Mulligan was born with a congenital deformity called Microtia. Source: 7 News.
The QUT research team is also working on a long-term project, to create an anatomically correct ear that would be 3D printed using the child's own cartilage cells.
It was made possible through $45,000 in state government funding, announced by Science Minister Leeanne Enoch on Saturday morning.
Queensland researchers have teamed up with 'Hear and Say' to help children suffering from hearing loss or ear malformations.
Coding from the images are then used to design the 3D ear, which is then printed out of silicone. Source: 7 News.
The money has been used to hire a PhD researcher and is the first to be announced as part of the government's Advance Queensland initiative.
Assoc Prof Woodruff said the ear would be surgically implanted on to the child and it would grow to create a "living, breathing ear construct".
The researchers hope to then work with bionics companies to improve the child's hearing.
They could cost as little as two hundred dollars per child.
At two-and-a-half years of age, Maia Van Mulligan doesn't know that she was born with only one ear.
She could soon be the first child in the world, to have her very own 3D printed prosthetic ear.
Mother Chloe Mulligan said the research would change her daughter's life.
"I thought it was light years away in terms of this technology," she said.
"It's not just about the hearing loss, it is about being socially accepted in society.
"For us the day she comes to us and actually says, `Where's my ear', it's obviously going to be heartbreaking.
Scientists can replicate a child's unaffected ear, using computer scanners. Source: 7 News.
"But now we can say, `You will have an ear'."
"The condition means there is no left ear and there is no ear canal, so what that means is that it's a conductive hearing loss," the mother told 7 News.
QUT is working in partnership with the Hear and Say charity, who contributed $25,000 to the ear research.
Researchers hope the 3D technology will work for more medical procedures and help other patients in need of prosthetic body parts.
A 3D printed body part can be built in just two days and scientists hope it will be available to the general public within two years.
News break – April 16