Outlook for Tissue Engineering of the Tympanic Membrane
Tympanic membrane perforation is a common problem leading to hearing loss. Despite the autoregenerative activity of the eardrum, chronic perforations require surgery using different materials, from autologous tissue - fascia, cartilage, fat or perichondrium - to paper patch. However, both, surgical procedures (myringoplasty or tympanoplasty) and the materials employed, have a number of limitations. Therefore, the advances in this field are incorporating the principles of tissue engineering, which includes the use of scaffolds, biomolecules and cells. This discipline allows the development of new biocompatible materials that reproduce the structure and mechanical properties of the native tympanic membrane, while it seeks to implement new therapeutic approaches that can be performed in an outpatient setting. Moreover, the creation of an artificial tympanic membrane commercially available would reduce the duration of the surgery and costs. The present review analyzes the current treatment of tympanic perforations and examines the techniques of tissue engineering, either to develop bioartificial constructs, or for tympanic regeneration by using different scaffold materials, bioactive molecules and cells. Finally, it considers the aspects regarding the design of scaffolds, release of biomolecules and use of cells that must be taken into account in the tissue engineering of the eardrum. The possibility of developing new biomaterials, as well as constructs commercially available, makes tissue engineering a discipline with great potential, capable of overcoming the drawbacks of current surgical procedures.