In 1995, two Massachusetts-based scientists performed an innovative experiment in tissue fabrication. They covered a microscopic strip of polyester with cartilage cells taken from a cow, and implanted this structure beneath the skin of a lab-mouse. The mouse had been specially bred for the project, being both hairless and having a disabled immune system to avoid transplant rejection. The cells grew around the polyester and the result was a non-functional approximation of a human ear.
The idea was that the same procedure could be applied to people, allowing those who had lost their outer ears in accidents, or those were born without outer ears, to simply grow replacements. New noses could conceivably be grown as well.
The pictures of the "Earmouse" caused a sensation, and (predictably) various fundamentalist Christian groups condemned the historic rodent as a violation of nature. To this day, the pictures continue to circulate the internet with various misleading captions. Meanwhile, the ear-like structure was removed from the back of the mouse, and the tiny creature spent the remainder of its days scurrying about with the rest of its hairless kin.
Recently, in 2001, an Australian performance artist named Stelios Arcadiou (better known by his stage name of "Stelarc"), became interested in the Earmouse experiment. Stelarc was basically a transhumanist. Convinced that the human body had been made obsolete through advances in technology and that it "[could] only be considered relevant now as a component of extended operational systems," his performances made use of remote-controlled robotic prosthetics. Fascinated by the pictures of the Earmouse, Stelarc courageously decided that he wanted a non-functional additional ear of his own. He spent the following six years trying to find surgeons willing to help him with his expensive bio-stunt. The "Tissue Culture and Art" group of Australia answered the call.
After determining that Stelarc's initial idea of having the second ear on the side of his face could be dangerous, the TCA constructed a quarter-scale ear "seed" to implant in his arm. After the cartilage and skin had fully grown, the lobe was later added surgically. Stelarc was quite pleased with his new ear and plans on implanting a wireless internet antenna, sound chip, and proximity detector beneath it so that it can interface with his computer.
Now isn't that meaningful?
Would you like to know more?
-Read the BBC article
-Peruse Stelarc's website