Augmented Biology: Growing Ears on Apples

Alejandro Alvarez
November 17th 2016

At first growing human ears on apples may sound like the crazy eccentricity of a scientist with too much free time on his hands. But the work of professor Andrew Pelling has a valid justification and a goal: a low-cost, globally accessible biomaterial with which we might reconstruct our falling-apart bodies: skin, bones, veins, organs and so on.

The current methods used to grow organs for transplant outside the human body require a scaffold in which stem cells can thrive, normally this scaffolds are donor organs or engineered synthetic ones, both of them rare and very expensive. As Pelling explains: “Scientific equipment can be very expensive, sometimes creating inequitable access to research-grade materials and hardware, I’m always thinking about how we can do complex science simply and cheaply”.

Luckily apples are cheap and we have plenty of them, and as Pelling discovered the natural structure in the cellulose of this fruits is suitable for human cells development, furthermore the ears grown in the apples can actually be implanted in the human body. The process is quite simple: it involves slicing the apple, washing and sterilizing until you are left with a fine mesh of cellulose that becomes a scaffold ready to host human cells.

Pelling calls his creation Augmented Biology, he believes that this techniques are an evolution of our old human tendency to extend, modify and embellish our bodies, in this case aimed to “repair” our bodies with the help of our fruity friends.

Source: IDEAS.TED. Image: Peter Thonrton

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