Middle ear transplant to cure deafness using 3D printing technologies
A group of researchers from South Africa have successfully completed a groundbreaking operation with the use of 3D printing technologies. In fact, it represents a big advancement for the medical field, as it is the first time a middle ear transplant has been performed. Moreover, the success of this operation could represent a viable long-term solution to conductive hearing loss. The procedure was performed using 3D printing to reconstruct the broken bones of the patient’s middle ear. The researchers explained that this surgery has the potential of being conducted on patients of all ages, even on newborn babies.
The patient in question was 35 years old and had lost his hearing due to a car accident that damaged the inside of his ear. Professor Mashudu Tshifularo, part of the group of researchers that conducted the operation explains, “By replacing only the ossicles that aren’t functioning properly, the procedure carries significantly less risk than known prostheses and their associated surgical procedures. We will use titanium for this procedure, which is biocompatible. We use an endoscope to do the replacement, so the transplant is expected to be quick, with minimal scarring.”
Professor Mashudu Tshifularo has been studying conductive hearing loss for a decade, in the last two years he was been looking into the use of 3D technologies to scan and rebuild damaged areas of the ear that include some of the smallest bones in the body. While hearing loss is a natural part of ageing – starting to decline around the age of 30-40 – it can also occur as a result of disease, infection, physical damage or it can be inherited. Therefore, this new procedure could change what was considered in many cases permanent hearing loss, “3D technology is allowing us to do things we never thought we could. But I needed sponsors and funding for this invention to take off the ground.”
After the operation, the patient will regain their hearing immediately aside from bandages muffling sounds. The South African Department of Health is calling upon development partners and donours for support. Minister Motsoaledi declared, “As a Department of Health, we shall do everything in our power to assist and mobilize resources to make sure that Prof. Tshifularo gets all the help he needs for this far reaching innovation.”
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