If the jug ears bother you…
Those who are not born with a successful career as an actor because of their jug ears often suffer from the looks of their fellow human beings all their lives left over. Perhaps in the future the enzyme hyaluronidase could bring help. In a test on New Zealand white rabbits, Dr. Holger Sudhoff from the medical faculty of the Ruhr-Universität-Bochum RUB recently demonstrated that this enzyme can be used to change auricular cartilage permanently and without side effects. This year's DM 12,000 prize from the "Novartis Foundation for Therapeutic Research" (formerly Sandoz Foundation) at the Medical Faculty of the RUB was awarded to Dr. Sudhoff's reward for his dissertation "Investigation of the non-surgical deformability of the rabbit ear shape - an animal experimental study".
Deviations in the shape of the auricle can be brought into the "normal" contour in early infancy with the help of ear bandages. However, the properties of the auricular cartilage change in the course of adolescence, so that subsequent attempts at correction do not produce satisfactory results. With the help of this method, which is already known but very rarely performed in Germany, some children can be spared an ear operation. This would normally be done before the child starts school.
In his work, the Bochum scientist attempted to match the properties of ear cartilage, especially its deformability, to those of infancy. In this way, the auricle deformability, which is limited to the first few days of life, could be extended to later periods. It is not yet known exactly why the mechanical properties of the ear cartilage change. Some scientists suspect a connection between the significantly increased blood level of the female sex hormone estrogen at birth and the deformability of the auricle. This hormone is said to influence the cross-linking and composition of the basic substance and thus the mechanical properties of the cartilage. It was previously unknown whether ear cartilage contains estrogen receptors. In this work, Dr. Sudhoff used certain detection techniques (using antibodies that bind specifically to the receptor) to detect estrogen receptors in the ear cartilage for the first time. This led to the possibility of treating the cartilage directly with estrogen.
Various substances that are currently used in therapy are known to affect the basic structure of tissues. In addition to the female sex hormone estrogen, these include the enzymes papain and hyaluronidase. Papain is a protein that is obtained from pineapples and is already used in orthopedics to dissolve herniated discs. Hyaluronidase is also an enzyme that can be obtained from bull testicles, among other things, and is used in cancer therapy. If the chemotherapeutic agent accidentally enters the tissue and not the vein, the chemotherapeutic agent can be broken down more quickly with the help of hyaluronidase.
Dr. Sudhoff experimented on white New Zealand rabbits. The three substances examined were each injected into the auricle, after which ear bandages were applied for three weeks. After one, seven and twenty-one days, small samples were taken from the cartilage, which were then examined further. After removal of the ear bandages, all rabbits were observed for a period of one month to assess the durability of the pinna correction.
All samples taken were checked under the light microscope and the electron microscope. In addition, certain molecules of the basic substance were isolated from the cartilage and quantified using a new method. In addition to the water content, the content of proteins and DNA, or their changes through the respective substances, were determined.
Satisfactory correction results without side effects could only be achieved with the help of the enzyme hyaluronidase. Papain led to severe side effects and can therefore not be used for this question. Estrogen caused the cartilage to soften and the cartilage cells to grow. However, this did not result in a permanent change in the shape of the auricle.
Hyaluronidase led to a rapid and reversible cartilage change and thus enabled a change in the shape of the auricle. With the help of this method, there may be a prospect of doing without plastic surgery when correcting minor changes in the contour of the ear. The possibility of non-surgical therapy could thus be extended to later periods.