While medical science has performed miracles, the ingenuity of innovative medical practitioners can do wonders. This is the case of Sherrie Walter, who lost her ear to cancer two years ago.
Sherrie, the 42 year old mother of two didn’t want to live the day to day life with a prosthetic ear, according to ABC news. A ray of hope emerged for her when doctors at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore said it was possible to grow a new ear on her arm.
This is a ground breaking procedure which involves reconstructing a new ear out of cartilage from rib cage. Doctors then placed this ear under the skin of her forearm to grow. It remained under her arm for about four months. Finally, after some finishing touches to the ear doctors repositioned it.
In 2010, a sore in Walter’s left ear was diagnosed as basal cell carcinoma. Since the cancer had spread to her ear canal, she had her entire ear, neck glands, lymph nodes tissue and part of her skull removed.
Dr. Patrick Byrne of the John Hopkins University School of Medicine has pioneered this procedure. However, according to Byrne, most of Walter’s skin had been removed from facial and neck skin needed for ear reconstruction, so doctors opted to place the ear under the forearm.
Four months later, the ear was removed from her arm and reattached to the right place where it should be. The entire process lasted 20 months. This is a case that should give hope to other cancer patients, according to Byrne.
In recent years, doctors have been working on the concept of building solid organs using different strategies. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative medicine was recently in the news for engineering a miniature liver in the lab.
A UK teenager Ciaran Finn-Lynch born with a defective wind pipe is thriving after his stem cells were used in a windpipe transplant operation. It is hoped that more complex organs such as hearts and intestines can be grown in the future using a person’s stem cells.