What you’re looking at here is an honest-to-God 3D printed bionic ear. We’ve covered printed organs before, even printed ears before, but this is a world first for researchers to have successfully implanted functioning electronics during the biological printing process. This bionic ear includes a coiled antenna capable of picking up radio frequencies outside of the normal human frequency range. After an ear was modeled, a cartilage superstructure was then printed around the antenna using calf cells to create “bio” portion of this bionic ear.
At the moment the ear would only be capable of picking up the aforementioned radio frequencies, but the wires at the end of antenna are ready-made to connect to a cochlear device and allow for a form of hearing previously outside of human experience. The team behind the ear had this to say:
The ability to three-dimensionally interweave biological tissue with functional electronics could enable the creation of bionic organs possessing enhanced functionalities over their human counterparts.
This leads down the wonderfully strange rabbit-hole of transhumanism and when and where we will chose to upgrade our bodies. It is an easy enough choice to say that you wouldn’t want robotic legs or laser-tipped fingers, but that presupposes that you are healthy and able-bodied to begin with. As Oscar Pistorius’ artificial legs and others have shown us, the grey area is in the scenarios of failed body parts or horrific maimings. If something happened to your eyes and the replacements we have are tiny cameras that just happen to also pick up infrared, would you rather be blind than transhuman? I doubt it. Most likely as we all age we will have much more mundane choices to make, such as arthritis treatments than imbue increased flexibility or a replacement hip than augments strength. In these scenarios, it is the rare soul that will choose the base model and “regress” back to human while the rest of their peers are adding years and abilities on to their lives.
We’ve got a few years to mentally struggle for personal answers and lines of demarcation, but our transhuman future is coming faster than you might think.
Source: Nano Letters