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In a medical first, a 20-year-old patient in New York successfully received a 3D-printed ear transplant, according to reports yesterday. While 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, has been used to develop custom-fitting prosthetics, the new structure was printed using the patient’s own cells. Doctors say the structure will regenerate cartilage as it naturally integrates with the body.

The reconstructive procedure marks both a medical milestone and a significant advance in the use of living cells to create functioning biological structures. Notably, researchers have grappled with how to incorporate tiny vascular networks to deliver blood—along with oxygen and nutrients—to the cells.

The patient was part of a clinical trial that included 10 other participants whose results have yet to be published. Learn more about the process of bioprinting with living cells here (w/video).