Usually, when a person needs a replacement part, the material comes from another portion of their body and then has to be grafted in place. For example, when someone is born without the outer portion of their ear, doctors will often form one using cartilage from the ribs. Now, for the first time, a woman has received an ear made from her own cells using a 3D printer. “Companies have previously used 3-D printing technology to produce custom-fit prosthetic limbs made of plastic and lightweight metals. But the ear implant, made from a tiny glob of cells harvested from the woman’s misshapen ear, appears to be the first known example of a 3-D printed implant made of living tissues.” We’re still a ways off from being able to print things like internal organs, but this is a pretty amazing step forward. NYT (Gift Article): Doctors Transplant Ear of Human Cells, Made by 3-D Printer.

+ A Tough Cell: And while we’re on the topic of harnessing the power of our own cells, there’s this very promising advance. Novel genetic experiment shrinks tough-to-treat cancer. “T cells are key immune soldiers, able to kill off diseased cells — but too often cancer evades them. Doctors already have learned how to strengthen T cells to fight some types of leukemia and lymphoma. They add an artificial receptor to patients’ T cells so the immune fighters can recognize a marker on the outside of blood cancer cells, and attack. But that CAR-T therapy doesn’t work against more common solid tumors, which don’t carry that same danger marker. The new twist: At Oregon’s Providence Cancer Institute, researcher Eric Tran genetically engineered Wilkes’ T cells so they could spot a mutant protein that’s hidden inside her tumor cells — and only there, not in healthy cells.”

+ Meanwhile, this man gets bitten by deadly snakes in the name of science. “A partnership between an immunologist and a snake-keeping ex-truck mechanic is attempting to find a medicinal holy grail: a universal anti-venom. It’s a seriously risky business.” (Someone would have to 3D print me a new set of cojones to try this.)