Hearing loss is a highly prevalent multifactorial disorder affecting 20% of the global population. Current treatments using the systemic administration of drugs are therapeutically ineffective due to the anatomy of the cochlea and the existing blood–labyrinth barrier. Local drug delivery systems can ensure therapeutic drug concentrations locally while preventing adverse effects caused by high dosages of systemically administered drugs. Here, we aimed to design, fabricate, and characterize a local drug delivery system for the human cochlea. The design was relevant to the size of the human ear, included two different shapes, and incorporated two different microporous structures acting as reservoirs for drug loading and release. The four cochlear implant designs were printed using the two-photon polymerization (2PP) technique and the IP-Q photoresist. The optimized 2PP process enabled the fabrication of the cochlear implants with great reproducibility and shape fidelity. Rectangular and cylindrical implants featuring cylindrical and tapered tips, respectively, were successfully printed. Their outer dimensions were 0.6 × 0.6 × 2.4 mm3 (L × W × H). They incorporated internal porous networks that were printed with high accuracy, yielding pore sizes of 17.88 ± 0.95 μm and 58.15 ± 1.62 μm for the designed values of 20 μm and 60 μm, respectively. The average surface roughness was 1.67 ± 0.24 μm, and the water contact angle was 72.3 ± 3.0°. A high degree of polymerization (~90%) of the IP-Q was identified after printing, and the printed material was cytocompatible with murine macrophages. The cochlear implants designed and 3D printed in this study, featuring relevant sizes for the human ear and tunable internal microporosity, represent a novel approach for personalized treatment of hearing loss through local drug delivery.
FundingThis project has received funding from the Interreg 2 Seas program 2014-2020 co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund under subsidy contract “Site Drug 2S07-033”.
- hearing loss
- porous cochlear implant
- two-photon polymerization
- surface quality