Eardrum piercing is less necessary.. Infections and injuries are common causes, but perforations can cause pressure changes while diving.
Fixing it is not always easy, as Nicole Black (30 years old) learned when she met two ENT doctors while studying engineering at Harvard University. Eardrum repair procedures usually involve cutting some tissue or cartilage from another part of the head and using it to plug the hole. They are not always successful, and patients often need follow-up surgeries years later.
So he began to develop a better treatment. Its aim is to 3D print a new material which applies to a patch that works like a healthy eardrum.
It is not easy, because the eardrum has special properties that allow it to conduct sound waves. “The eardrum vibrates like a soft material at low frequencies and like a hard material at high frequencies,” explains Black. The material must support the growth of cells, including blood vessels, and must be strong enough to withstand manipulation by surgeons. The problem is that The human eardrum is only about 80 microns thick, about the width of a human hair.. “It was a lot of trial and error,” he said.
Black began testing devices with perforated eardrums in chinchillas, which were chosen for their large ears. These animals have eardrums roughly the size of humans. When he started getting good results, he founded a company, Beacon Bio, to continue developing them. Shortly after, this company was acquired by 3D printing firm Desktop Metal, where Black is now vice president of bio materials and Innovation in the health division, Desktop Health.
Black says his most significant improvement is printing a material with a structure that stimulates the growth of cells in specific patterns. This is important for the eardrum, but also useful for 3D printing medical devices for other organs and tissues, he said.
The latest version of your device, is called Phono Graftis in the form of a flattened spool of thread that can be inserted through an opening in the eardrum until half of it comes out the other side.
In theory, “any otolaryngologist who knows how to look at the ear with an endoscope can put one of these devices on,” said Black, who hopes to begin testing it on humans by the end of 2024.
Black also plans to develop devices for other healthcare needs. Their next goal is the creation of vascular grafts, which help repair damage to blood vessels, for example, after bypass surgery.