Kyle Figuray was born without a right ear canal or a fully formed outer ear.
“Akron Children’s Hospital confirmed he had normal hearing out of his left ear, so he’d have normal speech development,” said his father, Mark. “But we were afraid as he got older, he’d get self-conscious about it.”
In 2011, Ananth Murthy, MD, director of Akron Children’s Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Center, performed surgery to build a new outer ear using cartilage from Kyle’s rib.
“Kyle needed three surgeries to create the ear,” said Dr. Murthy. “It gave him the ability to walk around in public without people staring. We also added a bone anchored hearing aid.”
Those procedures have been available for some time, but Dr. Murthy is also working on something new – something that required Kyle’s own tissue, harvested from his malformed right ear.
“I’m working with Dr. William Landis at the University of Akron Goodyear Polymer Center to engineer cartilage for patients like Kyle,” he said. “We’ve been able to grow kids’ cartilage on mice, and we’re close to having a viable ear. The idea is to use a child’s own cells to grow along a biocompatible polymer that the body can later absorb without rejection. I like to think we’re five to 10 years away from FDA approval.”
Akron Children’s Hospital Foundation funds the care of the mice, growth media and analysis software.
“We thought it would be great if the research could help other kids like Kyle in the future, so they wouldn’t have to endure the rib surgery that he had,” said Mark. “And Kyle’s really happy with his new ear.”
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