Cartilage grown in labs could soon be used on patients who need new body parts such as noses and ears. A team of researchers from Swansea University is developing a process whereby cells are taken from a tiny sample of cartilage during an initial operation. These are then grown in an incubator over a period of several weeks, while the shape of the missing body part is scanned and fed into a computer. A replacement body part made up of a combination of the lab grown cells and a special liquid is then produced by a 3D printer. Prof Iain Whitaker from Swansea University explains “In simple terms, we’re trying to grow new tissue using human cells…We’re trying to print biological structures using human cells, and provide the right environment and the right timing so it can grow into tissue that we can eventually put into a human. It would be to reconstruct lost body parts such as part of the nose or the ear and ultimately large body parts including bone, muscle and vessels.” The Professor continues “The good news in the future is, if our research is successful, within two months you’d be able to recreate a body part which was not there without having to resort to taking it from another part of the body which would cause another defect or scar elsewhere.” There is still some way to go but the team hopes they will be one of the first to be using the technique on humans within three years. Body parts to order.