FutureHear is a charity that offers hearing, listening and speaking solutions for children and is part of a partnership between QUT and Hear and Say in order to produce next-generation 3D printed prosthetic ears. The prosthetic ears act as the first step in a program that also plans on developing real tissue and bionic ears in the due course, and the team is turning to crowdfunding to finance the project.
Through crowdfunding for FutureHear, everyone gets a chance to support world-first medical research to help children with microtia have a normal life, as per Associate Professor Mia Woodruff from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation. She said:
“No one in the world is researching 3D printing of life-like materials to create external ears. Crowdfunding is common nowadays for start-ups and arts projects but it is not the usual route to gaining financial support for biomedical research”.
In order to fund vital development of 3D printing technology for multi-material, flexible, lifelike prosthetic ears customised for each child with microtia, the target of raising $200,000 over 48 days has been made.
As children suffering from microtia often have one unaffected ear, the researchers are working on creating a simple, non-invasive, child-friendly technology that will make them capable of scanning the ear with a mobile phone and make a 3D computer model.
According to Professor Woodruff, the further research goal is to develop technology that make it possible to create prosthetic ears by 3D printing as cheaply as the cost of a pair of glasses. Previously, parents used to get hand-sculpted prosthetic ears made at a high cost which needed to be replaced every three to five years.
As per the Hear and Say’s Founder and Executive Director, Dr Dimity Dornan AO, the research collaboration was a step towards the ultimate goal of the FutureHear project which was to develop a living ear with in-built hearing assistance technology. He told:
“The next step for Professor Woodruff and her team is to produce a surgically implanted 3D printed ear scaffold containing the child’s own cells that will gradually dissolve and leave only new tissue. The real winners in this project is the children affected by microtia and their families who are seeking a cost effective and more accessible solution.”
Until now, $4,685 out of the $200,000 goal has been raised. Check out the project at pozible.com.