ProTip's artificial larynx successfully implanted in male patient

ProTip's artificial larynx--Courtesy of ProTip

ProTip, a French medical device company, disclosed that its artificial larynx has been successfully implanted into a human patient. Propelled by that milestone, a Europe-wide clinical trial of the invention is now underway.

The Strasbourg-based outfit said it worked with Strasbourg University Hospitals on the initiative, implanting the device in a 65-year-old male who had laryngeal cancer. Doctors began the process in June 2012, removing the patient's larynx and implanting a tracheal ring made of titanium to become incorporated into the surrounding tissue over time. A few months later, they placed a removable, valve-based device into the tracheal ring by way of the patient's mouth, with general anesthesia required.

Still short of a natural larynx, the device worked well enough to partially replicate how the larynx behaves. ProTip said the patient could breath again through the upper respiratory tract as a result of the surgery.

This is an early result, of course. Much more research must be done both to test the viability of ProTip's artificial larynx and to perfect the surgical procedure used for the implant. If ProTip is ultimately successful, it could upend standard treatments for patients with laryngeal cancer. Right now, a total laryngectomy is the go-to option for patients for whom other treatments fail. It's a drastic choice: Surgeons remove the larynx and separate the airway from the mouth, nose and esophagus so patients can breathe through an opening in their neck by way of a tube. In a few cases, doctors have successfully performed a laryngeal transplant, but that is a rare option, the company said.

"Laryngectomy is a procedure which has not changed in 140 years," ProTip CEO Maurice Berenger said in a statement. "This surgical first paves the way for a procedure which gives new hope to laryngeal cancer patients. Ultimately it will help patients regain their ability to breathe, speak and eat normally."

Their potential market is fairly large. Doctors diagnosed 150,000 new cases of laryngeal cancer worldwide in 2008, according to Cancer Research UK statistics cited by ProTip.

ProTip raised a $4.7 million Series C financing in June 2012 designed to advance human clinical trials for the company's larynx replacement implant. Participating investors included Fonds Lorrain des Materiaux, the Berchet family office, Alsace Amorcage and other private investors.

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