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New System To Treat Middle Ear Problems


Researchers at the University of Dundee have developed new technology which could revolutionise the treatment of middle ear problems.

A team led by Professor Eric Abel have created the SMARTFIT system, a radically new approach to the design of ossicular replacement prostheses (the tiny bones in the ear), which aims to be the first commercial product to give a genuine replication of the physiological function of the middle ear.

“Hearing loss affects a large number of people and we are very optimistic that our new concept in prosthesis design will prove to be a technical and clinical success,” said Professor Abel, Professor of Biomedical Engineering & Head of the Division of Mechanical Engineering and Mechatronics at the University.

“Most importantly, we hope that it will lead to an significant improvement in hearing for the large numbers of people who have conductive hearing loss.”

The technology is still be further developed and this will be carried out through commercial enterprise, either a new spinout company or through licensing agreement.

Commercialisation of the research has already received financial support from the Scottish Enterprise Proof of Concept programme.

“I and my colleague Dr Robert Mills are delighted to have received this Proof of Concept award from Scottish Enterprise,” said Prof Abel.

The SMARTFIT technology has the potential to create safer and more effective artificial `bone’ implants for the middle ear to restore hearing for people affected by Conductive Hearing Loss. SMARTFIT could greatly increase the number of restorative operations carried out for a condition which currently affects around eight million people in the western world.

Successful demonstration of the system could make a major impact on the Euro170 million market in ossicular prostheses. It would also boost Scotland’s standing in the valuable medical device sector, which has a global worth of over Euro75 billion.

The development of SMARTFIT, together with another spinout company already being established in Dundee to commercialise another hearing implant previously developed under an earlier Proof Of Concept-funded project, may lead to the creation of new jobs in Dundee and investment in a developing platform of advanced medical devices and smart materials technology.

The University has established a strong track record in commercial spin-outs of academic research. Recently four companies which have emerged from the University’s research base - Whole Life Consultants Ltd, Aktina Ltd, Lumenus Ltd and Calico Jack Ltd - were all honoured at the Scottish Executive’s SMART 2004 Awards, giving Dundee an unrivalled presence in the Science sector of the awards.

Roddy Isles | alfa
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