Australian researchers develop tiny silk implants that may restore hearing


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Scientists have used silkworms to create a tiny silk implant that can enable a person’s damaged eardrum to heal and help restore their hearing.

In a world first, scientists have used silkworms to create a tiny silk implant that can enable a person’s damaged eardrum to heal and help restore their hearing.

Chronic Middle Ear Disease and the ensuing perforated eardrums – commonly known as “burst eardrums” – impact millions around the world, reducing hearing and causing complications, including infections, which take the lives of nearly 30,000 people every year.

The infection can be difficult to contain resulting in damage to the eardrum and mastoid bone with hearing loss and pain occurring within the ear. Scientists are now closer to restoring hearing to patients with painful damaged eardrums by combining science and silkworms to create a tiny device known as ClearDrum which is similar in appearance and size to a contact lens.The technique is the result of exhaustive design, manufacturing, testing and analysis, researchers said.

The team, led by Marcus Atlas from Ear Science Institute Australia, has created a tiny bio-compatible silk implant on which the patient’s own cells grow and flourish resulting in a healed eardrum.

Tested over numerous years, the implant shows the ability to perform even better than a person’s original eardrum.Atlas said that the bio-compatibility, strength and transparency of the implant provides an advantage for the patient that has never been seen before.

The reduced complexity and time within surgery provides an even greater advantage and will allow the implant to be used in more cases and by more surgeons in more countries than current solutions.The current surgical procedures used for repairing perforated eardrums involves making grafts from the patient’s own tissues and using specialised and delicate microsurgery techniques and applying them to the eardrum to close the hole.

The patient is quite often required to return to surgery for further procedures due to limitations of the current methods. The new process is expected to be less expensive, less invasive and promising quicker healing of the ear drum.

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