Daily Health Headlines

Gene Therapy May Enhance Cochlear Implants, Animal Study Finds

👤by Steven Reinberg 0 comments 🕔Thursday, April 24th, 2014

WEDNESDAY, April 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Australian researchers say that gene therapy may one day improve the hearing of people with cochlear implants, allowing them to appreciate music and hear in noisy environments.

In experiments with deaf guinea pigs, senior study author Gary Housley and colleagues found that inserting genes in the area of the cochlear implant and passing an electric charge through the implant stimulated the growth of cochlear cells.

"Our study found a [new] way to provide safe localized delivery of a gene to the cochlea, using the cochlear implant device itself. The gene acts as a nerve growth factor, which stimulates repair of the cochlear nerve," said Housley, a professor and director of the Translational Neuroscience Facility at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney.

The cochlear implant is surgically placed in the cochlea, in the inner ear. The implant works by using a line of small electrodes within the cochlea to selectively stimulate cochlear nerve fibers at different positions and enhancing different sounds, or frequencies, Housley explained.

"In the cochlea of a person with good hearing, sound vibrations are encoded by sensory cells, called 'hair cells,' which stimulate the cochlear nerve fibers," he said. "With hearing loss, the hair cells are lost, and without them the cochlear nerve fibers die and retract into the bone within the core of the cochlea."

This makes the job of the cochlear implant difficult as the amount of electrical current needed to stimulate the nerves is quite high, Housley added.

The gene therapy, which makes the cells close to the electrode produce the nerve growth factor, causes the nerve fibers to grow out to those cells -- and therefore to the electrodes, he explained. This means that much less current is needed, so more selective groups of nerve fibers can be stimulated.

"In the future, people with cochlear implants may get this gene therapy at the time of their implant, and the computer system -- which is part of the cochlea implant that converts sound to electrical pulses along the array of electrodes -- should be able to provide a better sound perception," Housley said.

Scientists note, however, that research with animals often fails to provide similar results in humans.

The report was published in the April 23 issue of Science Translational Medicine.

Housley cautioned that this study is preliminary research. "Future clinical trials will indicate what possible improvement in hearing is attained, but we feel that a broader range of pitch and tonal range should be achieved."

This may mean that people with these devices could appreciate a richer tonal and dynamic range, which would let them appreciate music and help with hearing in noisy environments. Currently, the effect is limited to a few months, but this could be improved, he said.

The study disclosed that two patent filings are associated with this research.

Housley's team is working toward a clinical trial and looking at how this technology could provide treatments that improve other medical applications, such as retinal implants and deep brain stimulation, which is used to treat Parkinson's disease.

Robert Shepherd, director of the Bionics Institute at the University of Melbourne, in Australia, is the co-author of a journal editorial accompanying the new study.

"While cochlear implants have proven to be very successful -- more than 300,000 people worldwide have received a cochlear implant -- their performance is not as good in noisy situations," Shepherd said.

In addition, their ability to help people hear music is not great. "One reason for this reduced fidelity is the partial 'die-back' [degeneration] of the hearing nerves following the loss of the hair cells," he explained.

By artificially introducing genes into the inner ear, scientists hope to prevent this natural die-back and "recondition" the hearing nerve. "This process is expected to result in improved fidelity for the next generation of cochlear implant users," Shepherd said.

Article Credits / Source

Steven Reinberg / HealthDay

Steven Reinberg wrote this story for HealthDay. HealthDay provides up to the minute breaking health news. Click here to view this full article from HealthDay.

SOURCES: Gary Housley, Ph.D., professor, and director, Translational Neuroscience Facility, University of New South Wales, Sydney; Robert Shepherd Ph.D., director, Bionics Institute, University of Melbourne, Australia; April 23, 2014, Science Translational Medicine

View More Articles From Steven Reinberg 🌎View Article Website

Sponsored Product

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

Lunar Sleep for $1.95

People who have trouble sleeping typically have low levels of melatonin, so melatonin supplements seem like a logical fix for insomnia. There is a high demand for sleep aids, especially in the U.S. The National Health Interview Survey done in 2002, and again in 2007, found 1.6 million US adults were using complementary and alternative sleep aids for insomnia. Lunar Sleep was a top choice. Use Promo Code: Sleep2014 and only pay $1.95 S&H.

Get Lunar Sleep for $1.95

More Hearing Articles

Study Suggests Genetic Link to Middle Ear Infections

Study Suggests Genetic Link to Middle Ear Infections0

FRIDAY, Oct. 7, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers say they've found a potential genetic link to a child's higher risk of middle ear infections. These painful infections are the most frequent reason kids are given antibiotics, according to ...

New Clues to Age-Related Hearing Loss

New Clues to Age-Related Hearing Loss0

THURSDAY, Oct. 6, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- When background noise makes it hard to carry on a conversation, many older people chalk it up to hearing loss. But a new, small study finds that the problem may not just be in your ear, but also in your ...

Swimmer's Ear

Swimmer's Ear0

Ear pain can be caused by conditions within the ear, the ear canal, or it may affect visible portions of the ear. Infections of the ear include infections of the middle ear (otitis media), outer ear (swimmer's ear or otitis externa). An earache also ...

Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss0

Everyone. No matter how old or young you are, too much exposure to loud noise can permanently damage your hearing. Whether it's the screech of a chain saw, the sudden blast of a hunting rifle, or the roar of a lawn mower, exposure to loud sounds can ...

Meniere Disease

Meniere Disease0

Meniere's disease does not have a cure yet, but your doctor might recommend some of the treatments below to help you cope with the condition. Medications. The most disabling symptom of an attack of Meniere's disease is dizziness. Prescription ...

View More Hearing Articles


Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Mailing List

Subscribe to our mailing list to get the latest health news as it breaks!

Your information will not be shared with anyone!