Silk fiber implant helps restore hearing

September 1st, 2017 / By: / Projects

Scientists in Australia are working with silkworms to create a tiny silk fiber implant that can be used to repair painful burst eardrums. Photo: Ear Science Institute Australia.

As many as 330 million people worldwide suffer from Chronic Middle Ear Disease, a debilitating condition that is the most common cause of perforated eardrums. It can cause hearing loss and great pain when there is damage to the eardrum and mastoid bone.

A team of scientists at the Ear Science Institute Australia and the Ear Science Centre at the University of Western Australia has been working with fiber experts at Deakin University’s Future Fibres Hub to develop an implant to restore hearing to Chronic Middle Ear Disease patients who suffer hearing loss.

The solution is a membrane made from silk fibers. Called ClearDrum, the tiny biocompatible implant resembles a contact lens. Inserted in the ear, the patient’s own cells grow and flourish on the implant, resulting in a healed eardrum. The thin membrane vibrates like a natural eardrum, is strong enough to resist inner ear pressure, biodegrades when the eardrum is regenerated, and is easy to manipulate during surgery.

When available, ClearDrum will reduce the complexity, time and expense of current surgical techniques that often require delicate microsurgery using the patient’s own
skin grafts and a number of follow-up procedures. For more information, visit www.earscience.org.au.

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