Science & Nature

Aug 1, 2017


Revolutionary techniques are reshaping the world in every area and every subject. When we look around, we see all sorts of proposals and gadgets to fulfil the needs we didn't know were needed.

Then, there are things the world absolutely needed and weren't getting the right attention. Sometimes, the most trivial of things, is the right answer for a major problem. And health problems are not a minor problem.

The human ear is an intricate mechanism full of delicate moving parts, which makes it a fiddly thing to fix if something goes wrong. Chronic middle ear disease can lead to infection, pain, hearing loss and perforated eardrums, and patients may need several rounds of surgery to address the problems.

In a world-first trial, a team of Perth and Melbourne researchers and scientists say they will next year be 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 revolutionary technique is the result of exhaustive design, manufacturing, testing and analysis team led by the Perth-based surgeon scientist Professor Marcus Atlas from Ear Science Institute Australia and Ear Science Centre at the University of WA, in collaboration with fibre experts at Deakin University's Future Fibres Hub.

The team has created a tiny bio-compatible silk implant known as ClearDrum on which the patient's own cells grow and flourish resulting in a healed eardrum. Tested over eight years in the laboratory at Ear Science and Deakin, the implant shows the ability to perform even better than a person's original eardrum.

That means that rather than requiring return trips to the operating theater, the repair process requires just one procedure, reducing the cost and healing time of the condition.

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