For the first time Japanese scientists have successfully grown chunks of cartilage from stem cells in the ear, which could replace the synthetic materials currently used in surgery.
Takanori Takebe at Yokohama City University in Japan is the first to confirm that the ear contains a source of stem cells, hidden in tissue called the perichondrium.
His team removed part of the perichondrium from human ears and injected it into mice.
The transplanted cells successfully grew into cartilage, which was still healthy after 10 months.
"We are now preparing for the first clinical application [of the technique] in our university hospital," New Scientist quoted Takebe as saying.