Programmable 3D-Printed PhonoGraft Aims to Boost the Body’s Regeneration Process

By on July 30th, 2021 in news, Usage

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Programmable 3D-Printed PhonoGraft Aims to Boost the Body’s Regeneration Process
The 3D-printed PhonoGraft is designed to conduct sound like the eardrum while also helping tissue to repair itself. (Illustration courtesy of Desktop Health/Shawna R. Snyder.)

Desktop Health’s biodegradable 3D-printed graft promotes the natural healing of human membranes.

Since being founded in March as a health care division of Desktop Metal, Desktop Health has been busy adding new technologies to its range of 3D-printed offerings.

The recent acquisition of the PhonoGraft biofabrication platform—developed by Harvard researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and teaching hospital Mass Eye and Ear—has the potential to do far more than just heal ruptured eardrums.

“We believe that this platform may one day offer a groundbreaking solution to the millions of patients impacted by tympanic membrane perforation (TMP),” said Michael Jafar, president and CEO of Desktop Health. “PhonoGraft material technology, coupled with our leading biofabrication capabilities, has tremendous potential across a wide range of healthcare applications in soft tissue—from cardiovascular and neuronal grafts to plastic surgery.”

While still in the advanced stages of research and development, this new technology may be an innovative step toward the future of boosting the human body’s ability to heal and regenerate tissue. Studies indicate that this implantable, biodegradable 3D-printed graft offers a less invasive option with enhanced results for healing and hearing.

Nicole Black, Desktop Health vice president of biomaterials and innovation. (Image courtesy of Desktop Health.)

The inspiration for the PhonoGraft was the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. The tragic event, which killed three people and injured hundreds, left many in attendance with eardrum perforations.

This sent the original researchers on a six-year journey to explore 3D printing as an option for eardrum reconstruction rather than existing methods—such as tympanoplasty, a surgical procedure that has been around since the 1950s. While endoscopes have allowed for less evasive patch tympanoplasty, for a patient to truly heal and regain hearing requires eardrum tissue—not tissue from elsewhere in the body.

In collaboration with ear surgeons Dr. Aaron Remenschneider and Dr. Elliott Kozin from Mass Eye and Ear, a multidisciplinary team of material scientists and otolaryngologists set their sights on making the idea a reality. They formed a startup, Beacon Bio, to make progress on their synthetic device.


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