Revolutionizing Healthcare: The Advent of 3D Printed Ear Implants with Integrated Medications


A groundbreaking procedure has seen a recipient benefit from a 3D printed, bespoke external ear canal implant. The implant is capable of providing medicinal release following its surgical application to prevent restenosis, or the retightening of the ear canal. This advancement comes courtesy of the Hannover Medical School‘s Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) clinic in Germany. The apparatus illustrates significant progress in the realm of patient-specific care. The technique involved in making this first-of-its-kind adult custom ear implant with drug-dispensing benefits was developed by Desktop Health‘s 3D-Bioplotter Manufacturer Series.

The medical team at MHH have remarked that the recipient of the implant previously endured a number of operations attempting to rectify the constriction of the auditory canal, yet none had delivered successful results. However, the newest device doesn’t just act as a stent to keep the canal clear, it also delivers medicinal compounds to promote healing. This dual-purpose implementation underscores the vast possibilities of 3D printing as a means of creating multi-purpose medical equipment customized to every patient’s individual needs.

“This development has ushered in a new era of innovative patient care,” proclaimed Thomas Lenarz, director of the ENT clinic.

Applications for In-Patients

MHH isn’t the only one seeing success. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States has approved Dimension Inx’s unique CMFlex, which is the first 3D printed product for regenerative bone grafting, and two patients have already had it implanted by surgeons. The 3D-Bioplotter was used by developers to create the CMFlex, which is how they produced the ear implant. These milestones are demonstrating how concepts are transforming into actual treatments for patients, and it indicates a movement in the healthcare sector towards individualised patient care.

The 3D-Bioplotter printer, which is known for its precision and reliability, has been refined over time. Desktop Health, a Desktop Metal subsidiary listed on the NYSE as DM, acquired the 3D-Bioplotter to extend its reach into the healthcare segment and take advantage of the printer’s capabilities for medical applications.

The 3D-Bioplotter was first imagined at the University of Freiburg in Germany towards the end of the 1990s and the start of the 2000s. The device ejects biomaterials through a nozzle to create the desired 3D form. What’s unique about it is its capacity to print using multiple materials within a single build. This feature is vital for replicating the intricate structures of natural tissues. In addition to this, the technology can include cells and pharmaceuticals, resulting in implants that can actively aid in the healing process, as demonstrated by the recent ear canal implant.

Emerging Personalized Medicine Potential

In the year 2020, MHH acquired a 3D-Bioplotter to launch an innovative external ear canal implant made from silicone. The objective was also to investigate other therapeutic applications using a variety of materials. The Inner Ear Pharmacology Department from the Otolaryngology Clinic at MHH, led by Dr. Verena Scheper, was responsible for the detailed creation of the implant’s design. The 3D-Bioplotter was used for the product’s manufacture under her supervision. Post-implantation, Scheper noted that the preliminary follow-up demonstrated positive results, suggesting seamless integration of the implant within the patient.

“We will procure a second printer at the start of 2024, and it will be situated within the clinic, enabling the clinicians to perform onsite printing for patients. Additionally, we intend to formulate other implants that release drugs, not reliant on silicone but other substances, so we can establish a system that is biodegradable over time, eliminating the need for implant explants,” Scheper commented.

Ground-breaking Patient Care Epoch

MHH’s ENT clinic is a pioneer in patient care, generally recognized for administering the world’s largest cochlear implant program. The clinic boasts a legacy of innovation and cooperation, teaming up with acousticians, product manufacturers, and researchers. The inception of the drug-releasing ear implant authenticates the institute’s commitment to resolving complex health issues with unprecedented ideas.

Visit Link for an image of the bioplotter used to 3D print using medical and biological materials. The image is courtesy of Desktop Health.

Considering the aforementioned, Desktop Health’s proclamation extols not merely a single achievement but the initiation of a new chapter in medicine. Ric Fulop, the Founder and CEO of Desktop Metal, expressed, “The advantages of 3D bioprinting are only now beginning to extend to actual patients, and we salute this crucial transformation in medicine that MHH and other medical innovators are propelling forward. In recent times, we’ve observed the inaugural products developed over several years on the 3D-Bioplotter progressing into commercial and patient applications. We commemorate these significant milestones and what they imply for tailored patient care.”

For patients with distinctive medical conditions, the prospect of personalized treatment alternatives that conform to their specific anatomical and therapeutic needs could potentially alter their lives. The work of MMH’s ENT clinic and Desktop Health transcends merely devising new medical implements; they are on their way to constructing treatments that are as unique as the patients receiving them.

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