Nanotechnology to treat hearing loss


© Piotr Marcinski - Fotolia

Manipulation of matter on an atomic and molecular level is an important new area of science and the applications of these nanotechnologies in biomedical research are receiving growing interest. Researchers from the Bionics Institute and the University of Melbourne in Australia have developed a specific application using nanoparticles as a drug delivery system to the inner ear, a notoriously difficult part of the ear to reach.

The team is hoping to create novel preventive treatment options for progressive hearing loss. Their strategy is to embed specific drugs deeply into the porous nanoparticles they have developed. This will enable gradual distribution of the active substances to the target area of the body, over a number of months. In this case, the drug will diffuse to the hair cells in the inner ear as protective treatment. A significant advantage is that patients may not need repeat drug administration, a source of adverse effects. Another advantage is that the structure then breaks down and can be cleared by the body.

A second possible application could be to increase the life-span of cochlear implants. According to Dr. Andrew Wise, Senior Research Fellow at the Bionics Institute, results of preclinical studies showing an improvement in nerve survival through nanoparticle-delivered drugs indicate that nanotechnologies could emerge as a promising treatment modality in cochlear implant patients. “A big problem with these people is that they tend to lose what little hearing they have after implantation. No one really knows why,” he says. “Doctors are hesitant to provide an implant to people with some hearing because of the fear they'll lose what little they have.” It is hoped that these technologies could help to protect hearing in these patients.

Source: Herald Sun News