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Monday, April 13, 1998 Published at 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK


Girl may be first to grow artificial ear
image: [ This picture caused outrage among animal rights activists but the technique could change Jade's life ]
This picture caused outrage among animal rights activists but the technique could change Jade's life

A six-year-old girl could become the first person to grow an artificial ear using a controversial technique developed by American scientists.

[ image: Jade and her mother are going to Boston for initial checks]
Jade and her mother are going to Boston for initial checks
Jade Harris, from Middlesbrough, Britain, has only one ear after being born with the rare genetic disease, First Arch syndrome, which causes bone deficiency.

She is to travel to a Boston hospital for preliminary tests and health checks. If she proves suitable for treatment, scientists will grow the tissue in a dish in the laboratory.

Jade's mother Karen Harris explained the unique treatment to the BBC.

Jade's mother Karen: "They take cells from under her arm and grow it in a dish"
"They take cells from some part of the body, usually the arm, and they grow it in a dish for about six weeks until it gets the basic shape. Then she goes back and they stitch it on."

But the technique - first seen when scientists grew a human ear on the back of a mouse - has attracted criticism.

Animal rights activists describe it as cruel, while others have moral reservations about allowing scientists to create life in any form.

But for Jade and her mother the pioneering surgery offers a chance of a more normal existence for a young girl already too familiar with hospitals.

[ image: Ears can be grown from other tissue cells]
Ears can be grown from other tissue cells
"One of the reasons we're going for this is that it's a maximum of two operations, whereas some of the options open to her are about five or six operations, so they don't look so good.

"We're going for this one because we already needs lots of other operations.

"She's looking forward to going. She wants her ear so she can have normal things. It doesn't affect life a great deal, for her to be sad or withdrawn or anything like that. She's outgoing, just like a normal six-year-old."

The initial checks, which will take around a week, will look at Jade's general health and see if she is strong enough for the surgery. If she is deemed suitable for the operation, she will return to Boston at a later stage.


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