Protecting auditory nerve cells using neurotrophin cells
In the deaf cochlea, auditory neurons undergo continual degeneration that ultimately leads to nerve cell death. The application of neurotrophins can prevent nerve degeneration and even promote regrowth. Furthermore, the neuroprotective effects of neurotrophins can be enhanced via electrical stimulation from a bionic ear.
By implanting small capsules that contain neurotrophin-producing cells (NTCells) along with a bionic ear (see diagram on right) into the cochlea we have been able to provide protection to the auditory neurons.
These findings have important implications for future strategies that will combine a bionic ear with systems that deliver drugs safely to the cochlea in order to achieve improved implant performance.
Garnett Passe and Rodney Williams Memorial Foundation
US National Institutes of Health (HHS-N-263-2007-00053-C)