In a world first, scientists have used silkworms to create a tiny silk implant that can enable a person’s damaged eardrum to heal and help restore their hearing. Chronic Middle Ear Disease and the ensuing perforated eardrums—commonly known as “burst eardrums"—affect millions around the world, reducing hearing and causing complications, including infections, which take the lives of nearly 30,000 people every year.

A research team , led by Marcus Atlas from the Ear Science Institute Australia, has created a tiny bio-compatible silk implant, called ClearDrum, on which the patient’s own cells grow and flourish, resulting in a healed eardrum. Atlas says the bio-compatibility, strength and transparency of the implant gives unprecedented advantage to a patient. The current surgical procedures used for repairing perforated eardrums involve making grafts from the patient’s own tissues, using specialized and delicate microsurgery techniques and applying them to the eardrum to close the hole. The limitations of the current methods mean that the patient quite often needs surgery again.

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