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New ear to be grown for girl, 6

A SIX-YEAR-OLD girl will fly to the United States today to undergo the world's first surgical operation to grow a new ear.

Jade Harris was born with first arch syndrome, a rare bone disorder which left her with just one ear.

Her parents, Karen and Graham, of Middlesborough, Cleveland, contacted American surgeons after seeing a report on BBC Television's Tomorrow's World programme about how scientists were able to grow a human ear in a test tube and graft it on to the back of a mouse.

Now surgeons at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston, believe that they can grow a new ear for Jade, using cells from her existing left ear.

The procedure was pioneered by two American brothers, Charles and Jay Vacanti, who caused a worldwide sensation when they proved that their man-made ear was able to circulate blood and oxygen through its cells.

The surgery will be carried out in Boston by Dr Roland Eavey, the director of paediatric otolaryngology, who has been working with Dr Charles Vacanti on developing the technique.

The procedure will involve using a biodegradable plastic polymer framework, or mould. Cells from Jade's left ear will be placed in the framework, which will then be put in a nutrient bath where the cells divide and the plastic is eaten away.

When the new ear is complete with real cartilage and flesh, which will take about four weeks, it should be able to circulate blood and can then be grafted onto the young patient.

The new ear will be cosmetic only and will not enable Jade to hear, although she has full hearing in her good ear.

The Harris family has raised pounds 4,000 to pay for the trip to the US after turning down offers of more conventional surgery at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London where doctors could have fitted a prosthetic ear or one made with part of her ribs.