Monday, April 28, 2014

Hearing quality restored with bionic ear technology used for gene therapy

Researchers at UNSW Australia have for the first time used electrical pulses delivered from a cochlear implant to deliver gene therapy, thereby successfully regrowing auditory nerves. The research also heralds a possible new way of treating a range of neurological disorders, including Parkinson's disease, and psychiatric conditions such as depression through this novel way of delivering gene therapy..
Professor Housley and his team at UNSW developed a way of using electrical pulses delivered from the cochlear implant to deliver the DNA to the cells close to the array of implanted electrodes. These cells then produce neurotrophins.
"No-one had tried to use the cochlear implant itself for gene therapy," says Professor Housley. "With our technique, the cochlear implant can be very effective for this."
While the neurotrophin production dropped away after a couple of months, Professor Housley says ultimately the changes in the hearing nerve may be maintained by the ongoing neural activity generated by the cochlear implant.
"We think it's possible that in the future this gene delivery would only add a few minutes to the implant procedure," says the paper's first author, Jeremy Pinyon, whose PhD is based on this work. "The surgeon who installs the device would inject the DNA solution into the cochlea and then fire electrical impulses to trigger the DNA transfer once the implant is inserted."


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