Gene therapy may prove beneficial in a long run as the Australian scientists have predicted that it will help in treating hearing problem with cochlear implants.
The researchers carried study on deaf guinea pigs. During the study, study author Gary Housley and colleagues discovered that while inserting genes in the cochlear implant area and passing an electric charge through the implant stimulated the growth of cochlear cells.
Housley is a professor and director of the Translational Neuroscience Facility at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.
“Our study found a new way to provide safe localized delivery of a gene to the cochlea, using the cochlear implant device itself, Housley said while adding, “The gene acts as a nerve growth factor, which stimulates repair of the cochlear nerve.
Housley further explained the process of implantation and its working. According to him, the cochlear implant is surgically placed in the cochlea (in the inner ear). The implant works by using small electrodes line within the cochlea to selectively stimulate cochlear nerve fibers at different positions and enhancing different sounds or frequencies, he said.
“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. 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,” he said.
Housley has said that the study is preliminary research and needs in-depth analysis. Scientists have also noted that research with animals often fails to provide similar results in humans.
The report was published in the April issue of Science Translational Medicine.