The first few times I saw news reports about 3D printing, I thought it was pretty ingenious. People could use it to build 3D models of vases or even, a 3D model of a fetus from an ultrasound.
But now, I’m completely blown away by what it can do. This past weekend on CBS News Sunday Morning, they showcased how scientists are using 3D printers and living cells to craft new human tissue. So far, they’ve used it to build tumors from cancer patients’ biopsied tumors, which will enable them to easily grow several copies of the tumor and test out a number of different treatments at once, to figure out what’s going to work best on each patient’s particular cells. But the other application they showcased is the one that intrigued me more: They grew a human ear.
You see, my daughter was born with microtia, a birth defect that impacts her ear. She has a normal ear on her left, but her right ear is small and misshapen, and there’s no ear canal. So far, it hasn’t impacted her life too much—she hears pretty well (better if she actually wears her hearing aid), she has both of her ears pierced, and other than a few questions from her classmates, it’s pretty much a nonissue for her. We love her “special ear,” and she knows it’s just something unique about her. But I know how kids can be cruel, and I worry that as she hits the teen years, she’s going to become self-conscious about it.
Right now, there are two ways people can replace a microtic ear with one that looks more like a traditional ear. They can get a prosthetic, which looks more natural but usually has to be removed for bathing, swimming and sleep. Or they can go through a series of several painful surgeries to sculpt a new ear, using either Medpor, a medical-grade artificial scaffolding, or a rib graft. But the results of the plastic surgery aren’t always great, and I’ve seen too many ears that look “off.” I wouldn’t subject my daughter to that without her being totally on board with it.
But with the 3D printing, a sample of cells could be cultured, then “printed” out in the exact shape of her ear. She could have a brand new ear in a few weeks—and it would simply be one surgery to remove the microtic ear and place the new ear beneath the skin.
What’s even cooler is this new bionic ear that someone else created, an amalgam of the 3D printing using living tissue and technology. So maybe she can skip the hearing aid and hear on her own, through her new bionic ear.
I’m already dreaming up ways that this technology could eventually be used—to grow new body parts for people who lost a finger or a hand. To build new kidneys or a new lung for someone in need of a transplant. To repair a broken spinal cord. But right now, I’m just focusing on that miraculous homegrown ear.
Image: Lawrence Bonassar, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Cornell University, with an artificial ear grown using 3D printing, by Lindsay France/Cornell University
Six years ago today, my husband and I officially put our hats (and about 75 pages of documents) into the ring in the hopes of adopting a second child from China. And if we hadn’t been lucky enough to find our daughter on our adoption agency’s list of children with known medical needs, we would still be waiting for China to match us with our child—with no end in sight to our wait. (Currently, the people at the “front” of the line for adopting from China have already been waiting six and a half years.)
We are not an anomaly, as a new documentary, Stuck, shows in dramatic detail. New regulations put into place by the U.S. and other countries to help stop corruption in international adoption haven’t been as successful at stopping it as everyone had hoped. Instead, it’s slowed down the process to adopt a child to the point where it now takes nearly 3 years to complete an adoption—and it’s led to many more children growing up in institutions, where they are often neglected and left ill-equipped for life after the orphanage. The documentary offers sad glimpses of life in the orphanages in Vietnam, Ethiopia, Romania and Haiti—and tells the stories of several families who were “stuck” at various points in their adoption stories.
I have to admit—the trailer for the documentary made me worry it was a little bit too much in the vein of “Let the Americans come in and save these poor orphans.” But after watching the movie, it’s clearly more balanced. Its message is that every child should have a family—and if one isn’t available in a child’s home country, if there’s another family with open arms across the border, let the child go there rather than languish in an orphanage.
If you’re considering international adoption—or know someone who is—definitely check this movie out. It’s a great way to get a real sense of what’s happening in international adoption right now.
Most Restaurant Kids’ Meals Packed With Calories
Most kids’ meals at the USA’s top chain restaurants are still failing to make the grade when it comes to good nutrition, a new analysis finds. (via USA Today)
Genetic Variants and Wheezing Put Kids At Risk For Asthma
Almost every toddler will sniffle through a cold by the time they are three, but if they wheeze while they’re sick, they may be at higher risk of developing asthma. (via TIME)
Quality Preschool Benefits Poor and Affluent Kids, Study Finds
Quality prekindergarten programs can boost children’s school skills whether the kids come from poor or well-off homes, a new study shows. (via NBC News)
Bulletproof Backpacks for Kids: Cautious Protection or Feeding Anxiety?
A wave of parents are willing to try the extreme and controversial measure of making their children wear bulletproof materials to protect them at school in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., and other school shootings. But gun control advocates see this as a disturbing sign of how willing we have become to accept gun violence as the norm. (via ABC News)
Warren Buffett On Teaching Kids Smart Investing, With Cartoons
Kids will learn practical and valuable lessons about money management and can easily relate to the easy-going and fun, animated series. (via Forbes)
Chicago School Closings Provoke Parents’ Confusion, Anger
Nanette Fouch does not understand why her granddaughter may have to transfer from a Chicago elementary school earmarked to close partly because of poor academics to one where students scored even lower on a recent standardized test. (via Huffington Post)
Violent Video Games are a Risk Factor for Criminal Behavior and Aggression, New Evidence Shows
People are quick to point the finger or dismiss the effect of violent video games as a factor in criminal behavior. New evidence from Iowa State researchers demonstrates a link between video games and youth violence and delinquency. (via ScienceDaily)
A High School Where the Students are the Teachers
If high school students took charge of their education with limited supervision, would they learn? A Massachusetts school is finding out. (via TIME)
Study Clarifies Link Between Fertility Treatments and Neurological Problems in Kids
Children born from in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments have shown a higher risk of developmental problems, but what is responsible for the heightened risk? (via TIME)
Albany Moves to End Standoff in New York City Over Teachers Evaluations
Amid rising concerns about the promotion and consumption of energy drinks, researchers released new data Thursday suggesting energy drinks may negatively affect heart rhythm and blood pressure. (via The New York Times)
Math Skills: What Scientists Can Teach Parents about Kids’ Developing Minds
We know a lot about how babies learn to talk, and youngsters learn to read. Now scientists are unraveling the earliest building blocks of math – and what children know about numbers as they begin first grade seems to play a big role in how well they do everyday calculations later on. (via Huffington Post)
Arguments in the Home Linked with Babies’ Brain Functioning
Being exposed to arguments between parents is associated with the way babies’ brains process emotional tone of voice, according to a new study to be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. (via Science Daily)
Traffic Congestion Causes Childhood Asthma, Study Confirms
For the first time, European researchers have confirmed poor air quality due to congested road traffic is linked to kids’ asthma, the Los Angeles Times reported. A study, published online in the European Respiratory Journal, found 14 percent of childhood asthma cases were attributed to nearby traffic pollution, according to the newspaper. (via Fox News)
North Dakota Governor Approves 6-Week Abortion Ban
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple has signed legislation that would ban most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. (via Associated Press)
Debate on School Security Ramps Up
Hoping to head off a push to expand police presence in the nation’s 100,000 public schools, a national civil rights group plans to issue an alternative this week to beefing up school security. The plan focuses on counselors, campus safety teams, secure entrances and communication. It does not support adding more armed police. (via The Washington Post)
CDC: 105 Children Died During Flu Season in US
Health officials say the flu season is winding down, and it has killed 105 children — about the average toll. The flu season started earlier than usual and ended up being moderately severe. (via FOX News)
Babies Shouldn’t Get Solid Foods Until 6 Months Old
A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found many mothers are feeding babies solid foods earlier than the recommended age of six months, according to the Cleveland Clinic. (via FOX News)
Kids Who Exercise Are Less Likely to Have Fractures in Old Age
It turns out that strengthening bone to avoid fractures starts at a very young age.
Physical activity, such as the exercise children get in school gym classes, is important for fighting obesity, but the latest research suggests it may help to keep bones strong as well. (via TIME)
Celebrity Endorsers May Impact How Much Kids Eat
Celebrities who endorse specific foods in TV commercials are a powerful influence on children, and that effect may extend beyond the advertisement itself, according to a new study from the UK.(via Reuters)
Some Schools Urge Students to Bring Their Own Technology
Educators and policy makers continue to debate whether computers are a good teaching tool. But a growing number of schools are adopting a new, even more controversial approach: asking students to bring their own smartphones, tablets, laptops and even their video game players to class. (via The New York Times)
In the last 30 years, nearly 100,000 children from China have found new families around the world, thanks to one of the most stable and popular international adoption programs. And I’m the mom of two of them. My family was created there, when my husband and I adopted our two amazing daughters.
But a lot’s changed over the past eight years, since we first met our oldest daughter in a Civil Affairs Office in China. Since then, China and the U.S. both signed the Hague Convention governing international adoption, which required checks on the histories of all children, to determine if they are truly orphans and available for adoption. (This is to help prevent the child trafficking and corruption that has occurred in some international adoption programs, including China’s.) China instituted new limitations on the parents who would be eligible to adopt from China—though the parents who met those new limitations are still stuck waiting to be matched with their children (six years later and the wait is still growing, thanks to a 20,000+ backlog of parents hoping to adopt from China). China’s wealth has been increasing, which means more children are being adopted domestically, and more parents manage to afford the fines the Chinese government levies on families who go over the one-child limit. And China may be holding still other children back in their orphanages, hoping to take care of their children within their own borders.
And so, it was no surprise to me that the numbers of international adoptions from China had dropped precipitously yet again. Last year, only 3,311 were adopted internationally from China throughout the world—compare that to 2005, when we adopted our oldest, and 7,903 children came home to the U.S. alone. And the other number that was equally interesting—75 percent of the children adopted would be classified as special needs, as they were older or had known medical issues. In fact, that is how we managed to adopt our second daughter—we would still be waiting for a match, six years later, if we hadn’t found her on our agency’s “special needs list.”
Adopting a special needs child is currently the only viable option for most parents looking to adopt from China, as the wait for a “healthy” baby continues to grow—and will likely reach nearly a decade of waiting within the next few years. But it’s not an option for everyone—many countries won’t even allow their citizens to adopt special needs children.
We are thankful that it was an option for us, and that we’ll be celebrating five years with our youngest daughter later this year. But for many other prospective parents, the China adoption program seems to be another door closing, and another option for building a family gone.
Chicago School Closings: District Plans To Shutter 54 Schools
Citing budget concerns and falling enrollment, Chicago Public Schools officials announced Thursday they plan to close 54 schools next year and shut down 61 school buildings — the largest single wave of school closures in U.S. history. (via Huffington Post)
Camera Found In Maryland High School Bathroom Was Put There By Anne Arundel County Police Officer, Say Officials
An Anne Arundel County police officer has been placed on administrative leave after an investigation indicated he placed a camera in a boys bathroom at Glen Burnie High School, police said Thursday. (via Huffington Post)
Misregulated Genes May Have Big Autism Role
A new study finds that two genes individually associated with rare autism-related disorders are also jointly linked to more general forms of autism. The finding suggests a new genetic pathway to investigate in general autism research. (via Science Daily)
Antibiotics Not Worth Risk in Most Chest Colds: Study
Doctors need to give antibiotics to more than 12,000 people with acute respiratory infections to prevent just one of them from being hospitalized with pneumonia, according to a new study. (via Reuters)
Toddler Meals Have Too Much Salt, CDC Reports
Most ready-to-eat meals for toddlers have too much salt, government researchers say. (via Fox News)
Energy Drinks Linked With Heart Problems
Amid rising concerns about the promotion and consumption of energy drinks, researchers released new data Thursday suggesting energy drinks may negatively affect heart rhythm and blood pressure. (via Fox News)