When William Shakespeare penned the line, "Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears," the famous playwright meant it in the most figurative sense.

But it seems researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have taken it quite literally.

Scientists at the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication there, working to develop reconstructive plastic surgery techniques for wounded veterans, have learned how to successfully grow new sets of ears.

"People have been working on this for 20 years," said Cathryn Sundback, director of the tissue engineering lab at the hospital, to the Associated Press. Until this point, however, the technique has been impractical.

New technology aims to change that. Now, bits of the patient's own collagen (the tissue that gives ears their rigidity) can be grown around a custom-shaped titanium substructure. The structure grows in an incubator for a couple weeks, writes the AP, then voila! -- a new ear, ready to be covered with skin and sewn into place.

To prove the viability of the tissue, researchers have attached the ears onto rats, (photos below) where they have remained healthy for extended amounts of time. The ears have not yet been approved by the FDA, but according to the AP, the lab expects to have approval in about a year.

PHOTOS of the ears:

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  • Tom Cervantes

    In this Monday, July 2, 2012 photo Tom Cervantes, of Boston, a research engineer at the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication at Massachusetts General Hospital, displays a titanium frame designed for the reconstruction of a human ear, left, and a three dimensional plastic ear model, right, at the lab, in Boston. Scientists are growing ears, bone and skin in the lab, and doctors are planning more face transplants and other extreme plastic surgeries. Around the country, the most advanced medical tools that exist are now being deployed to help America's newest veterans and wounded troops. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • In this July 2, 2012 copy photo a chart provided by the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication at Massachusetts General Hospital, depicts the progression, from left to right, of implanted tissue engineered for ear development and construction, at the lab in Boston. Scientists are growing ears, bone and skin in the lab, and doctors are planning more face transplants and other extreme plastic surgeries. Around the country, the most advanced medical tools that exist are now being deployed to help America's newest veterans and wounded troops. (AP Photo/Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication at Massachusetts General Hospital)

  • Cathryn Sundback

    In this Monday, July 2, 2012 photo Cathryn Sundback, director of the tissue engineering lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, holds a laboratory rat implanted with a human-scaled ear made from sheep cells at the lab in Boston. The same lab also has created ears from human cells and hopes to start implanting them in patients in about a year. With ears destined for patients - they would just be grown in a lab dish until they're ready to implant. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

  • Cathryn Sundback

    In this Monday, July 2, 2012 photo Cathryn Sundback, director of the tissue engineering lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, holds a laboratory rat implanted with a human-scaled ear made from sheep cells at the lab in Boston. The same lab also has created ears from human cells and hopes to start implanting them in patients in about a year. With ears destined for patients - they would just be grown in a lab dish until they're ready to implant. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)