Researchers Use Silkworms to Repair Damaged Eardrums


Researchers based in Perth and Melbourne moving towards clinical trials of a device that incorporates silk in an ear implant. Named “Clear Drum”, it looks like a contact lens. But is instead a device on which the patient’s cells can grow.

Perth-based surgeon Professor Marcus Atlas said silk preferred choice because it was flexible. The silk degummed, which means removing sericin. The derivative fibroin the protein present in the silk is then heated into a liquid and combined with other materials including glycerol and polyurethane to create the “scaffold”.

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Chief Executive of the Ear Science Institute Sandra Bellekom said Clear Drum was the first implant which actually mimicked a human ear drum. She said it needed to be strong and flexible with acoustic properties and preferably transparent.

Implant of Ear drum

The middle ear space is a very noxious environment, particularly when there’s disease present, there’s a lot of pressure changes occurring, it’s a very moist environment. The implant placed under the eardrum. There would be a need for no more than one operation.

Ms. Bellekom said surgeons around the world had been harvesting tissue for patches for eardrum perforations, and many organizations have been trying to develop a suitable device.

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That is set to happen with the grant of nearly $4 million from the UK-based charity, the Wellcome Trust.

Recruiting expected to take place across Australia, but probably not until 2018. The not-for-profit Ear Science Institute has been working on the project with Deakin University’s Future Fibres Hub.

Professor Atlas and Deakin’s Professor Xungai Wang had gone to London to present to the Wellcome Trust. Professor Atlas said it has been a very rewarding joint effort.