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Van Gogh’s Severed Ear Brought Back To Life

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The ear is part of the exhibition "Sugababe" by Diemut Strebe, an artist specialised in artworks using biological material, who collaborated with scientists to reconstruct the Dutch master's ear using DNA from a living relative. (THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP/Getty Images)

The ear is part of the exhibition “Sugababe” by Diemut Strebe, an artist specialised in artworks using biological material, who collaborated with scientists to reconstruct the Dutch master’s ear using DNA from a living relative. (THOMAS KIENZLE/AFP/Getty Images)

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BERLIN (AP) — A German museum has put on display a copy of Vincent van Gogh’s ear that was grown using genetic material provided by one of the 19th-century Dutch artist’s living relatives.

The Center for Art and Media in Karlsruhe said artist Diemut Strebe made the replica using living cells from Lieuwe van Gogh, the great-great-grandson of Vincent’s brother Theo.

Using a 3D-printer, the cells were shaped to resemble the ear that Vincent van Gogh is said to have cut off during a psychotic episode in 1888.

“I use science basically like a type of brush, like Vincent used paint,” Strebe told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday.

The U.S.-based artist said the ear, which was grown at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, is being kept alive inside a case containing a nourishing liquid and could theoretically last for years.

Convincing Lieuwe van Gogh to take part was easy. “He loved the project right away,” said Strebe.

Lieuwe and Vincent van Gogh share about 1/16th of the same genes, including the Y-chromosome that is passed down the male lineage.

But hopes of using genetic material that belonged to the post-Impressionist master himself were dashed when DNA extracted from an envelope turned out to belong to someone else. “The postman messed it up,” Strebe joked.

Still, work is underway with a female relative to include mitochondrial DNA — passed down the mother’s line — for future installations.

The exhibition, at which visitors can speak into the ear through a microphone, lasts until July 6. Strebe said she plans to display the ear in New York next year.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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