The development of a prosthetic ear drum to help treat chronic ear infections in children has been given a funding boost with a $260,000 Channel 7 Telethon Trust grant.
A research team, including scientists from The University of Western Australia, is working on developing a silk based product which aims to disrupt the uncontrolled growth of biofilms that encapsulate bacteria in infected ears, hindering treatment.
More than 330 million children worldwide (up to 25,000 in Western Australia) have chronic ear disease which can lead to hearing loss and brain infections and impact speech, education and social development.
Chronic ear disease affects at least half of Indigenous children in WA’s rural and remote communities.
UWA Adjunct Research Fellow and Ear Science Institute Research and Development Manager Dr Filippo Valente, who leads the team, said the grant would help develop and test new clinically relevant therapeutic models for treating ear disease.
“This approach will shorten the time needed to translate this research into products on the market,” Dr Valente said.
“Our bespoke biomaterial has been engineered in our lab to take the form of the eardrum.
“It will interact with surrounding tissues to provide a barrier and a substrate to effectively deliver therapeutic drugs and reduce the incidence and severity of chronic ear infections.
“These collaborative efforts build on more than 15 years of research and development at Ear Science to develop ClearDrum, a silk-based prosthetic eardrum, and decades-long work at Telethon Kids Institute to understand the nature and cause of chronic ear disease.”
The first milestone for this project will be laboratory-based research into the compatibility of existing medications with biomaterials to test how they release drugs.
The team will also develop a laboratory model of biofilms as a testbed to find out the medications’ effectiveness.
The interdisciplinary project encompasses research and expertise in otolaryngology, material science, neuroscience and microbiology.
Dr Valente leads the team that includes Dr Ruth Thornton and Associate Professor Anthony Kicic from Telethon Kids Institute, Professor Marcus Atlas, Associate Professor Helmy Mulders and Dr Kristin Barry from The University of Western Australia, Dr Benjamin Allardyce from Deakin University, Associate Professor Hani Al Salami from Curtin University and Dr Huan Ting Ong from Ear Science Institute.
Cecile O’Connor (UWA Media & PR Advisor) 6488 6876