A non-surgical nose job could soon be a reality thanks to a technique that uses tiny needles, electric current and 3D-printed moulds to reshape living tissue.
The process promises to revolutionise cosmetic surgery, which often involves long recovery times and can lead to scarring.
Dr Michael Hill, from Occidental College in the US, said: “We envision this new technique as a low-cost office procedure done under local anaesthesia.
“The whole process would take about five minutes.”
Cartilage is made up of tiny rigid fibres, loosely woven together in a structure resembling spaghetti.
Tissue containing a greater density of electrically charged molecules is stiffer than that with a lower “charge density”, the scientists found.
Dr Hill’s team discovered that passing current through cartilage made the tissue more malleable.
“Once the tissue is floppy, you can mould it to whatever shape you want,” he said.
The technique was tested on a rabbit whose ears normally stood upright.
Using a mould and micro-needle electrodes, the researchers were able to make one of the ears bend over without damage.
Turning off the current allowed the cartilage to harden in its new shape, after which the mould was removed.
The scientists, who are exploring licensing options for the technique with medical device companies, presented their findings at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Orlando, Florida.