United States Army Surgeons Grew an Ear in This Veteran's Arm – Then Transplanted it Onto Her Head

Thursday, 10 May 2018 - 1:13PM
Weird Science
Medical Tech
Thursday, 10 May 2018 - 1:13PM
United States Army Surgeons Grew an Ear in This Veteran's Arm – Then Transplanted it Onto Her Head
< >
U.S. Army
When we hear about surgeons planning the first head transplant or super-fast, palm-sized cockroach-bots, it's tempting to preface the story with a half-serious "Has science gone too far?!" joke.

Then you get someone like Shamika Burrage, a 21-year-old army vet who was in a near-fatal car crash that fractured her spine and sliced off her entire ear. Burrage could have gotten a prosthetic to make herself look more normal – but instead, she chose to have doctors grow her a new ear in her arm.

You read that correctly. 

Doctors sheared some cartilage off of Burrage's ribs and shaped it into an ear, then buried it beneath the skin of her arm so it could develop blood vessels and grow into a fully-operational ear that would look, feel, and work (mostly) like normal. This Monday, a team of Army surgeons announced that the ear had been successfully extracted and attached to Burrage's head. According to Lt. Col. Owen Johnson, the chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center: "The whole goal is by the time she's done with all this, it looks good, it's sensate, and in five years if somebody doesn't know her they won't notice. As a young active-duty Soldier, they deserve the best reconstruction they can get."

It is the first time Army doctors have performed this procedure and follows on the heels of another weird (but revolutionary) Army surgical success: transplanting a fully-functioning penis onto a soldier who lost his genitals in combat.

For Burrage, however, there's still a ways to go: part of the forearm skin that covered her newly-grown ear has to be grafted onto her left jawline to patch the damage there, too.

On the one hand, it's encouraging that medical science is advancing to the point that life-changing disfigurements can be healed. On the other hand, having an ear sticking out of your arm for a few months does seem a bit counterintuitive to that goal...

Science
Science News
Weird Science
Medical Tech
No