A new product designed to treat eardrum perforations developed by a Harvard doctoral student, Nicole Black, has just won the “Cure It!” Lemelson-MIT Student Prize.

Related article: How Scientists Replicate Human Eardrum

PhonoGraft, “a biomimetic graft that has the potential to enable better and longer-lasting tympanic membrane reconstruction than typically used fascia grafts,” on a description posted on the Wyss Institute website, is said to be manufactured from a “unique, biodegradable material that mimics the natural eardrum, allowing the body’s own tissue to grow on it and fill in the structure as PhonoGraft slowly disappears.”

Blast injuries, chronic ear infections, and noncancerous skin growth behind the eardrum can all cause perforations of the tympanic membrane, resulting in hearing loss and ear infections. If the perforations do not heal naturally, they may become chronic and require reconstructive surgery to repair. The surgery, known as tympanoplasty, may require the use of a graft taken from human tissue (cartilage or fascia) or manmade material, to cover the eardrum.

According to the Wyss Institute posting, commonly used graft materials like fascia may not ensure “full mending,” requiring revision surgeries.

What the PhonoGraft aims to do is mimick the native tympanic membrane by “effectively conducting sound and promoting remodeling processes in which native tympanic tissue and vasculature grow into the graft, as the graft material slowly biodegrades.”

For additional information, please visit the Wyss Institute website here.

Original Paper: Kozin ED, Black NL, Cheng JT, et al. Design, fabrication, and in vitro testing of novel three-dimensionally printed tympanic membrane grafts. Hearing Research. 2016;340:191-203.

Source: Wyss Institute, Hearing Research

Media: YouTube, Wyss Institute