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Have you heard the one about…

posted 09 February 2015 at 11:58:17

The rapid advances in the research and development of bioprinting – that is, using sophisticated 3D printers to build living tissue using living cells – are fascinating, with far-reaching ethical and medical implications. A news story that hit the headlines in 2014 gave plenty of food for thought on this topic. In a museum in Karlsruhe, Germany, artist Diemut Strebe exhibited an ear made of human cells grown from samples provided by a distant relative of Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. Yes, the tortured creative genius Vincent van Gogh. And yes, that ear – the one that he cut off in a fit of madness in 1888. The ear was bioprinted in a shape that is ‘identical’ to the painter’s actual ear, based on data taken from photos of the artist. Kept alive inside a solution of nutritional fluids, the ear could theoretically last for years.  

 Image:  © epa european pressphoto agency b.v./Alamy