Using nanoparticles to deliver nerve survival factors to the deaf cochlea
The cochlear implant provides hearing information to the severe-profoundly deaf by electrically stimulating the auditory nerves of the inner ear. Deafness causes these auditory nerves to gradually degenerate leaving fewer nerves for the cochlear implant to stimulate. This degeneration is a result of the loss of the sensory (hair) cells, and their supporting cells, that normally provide nerve survival factors (termed neurotrophins) to these neurons.
This research aims to reverse the neural degeneration associated with deafness by delivering neurotrophins to the inner ear using nanoparticles. Previous research from our laboratories, and others, has shown that introducing neurotrophins into a deaf inner ear (using a variety of different methods) can promote auditory nerve survival.
However, neurotrophins can also result in disorganised regrowth of the nerves’ endings, potentially leading to less precise information being conveyed via cochlear implant stimulation. Therefore, another aim of this project is to investigate the feasibility of promoting organised nerve growth by developing an electrode array containing neurotrophin nanoparticles.
National Health and Medical Research Council
Image courtesy of Jay Town and the Herald Sun.