Researchers from Rochester University in the UK have found a new way to deliver drugs into the ear that could help to restore hearing in patients with deafness. Their findings have sparked hope for new ways to treat the problem in the future and hope to improve people's lives.
As part of their study, the researchers used imaging and modeling technologies to see how fluid moves from other parts of the brain toward the inner ear via the cochlear aqueduct. This would be part of their new method so that drugs could reach the inner ear of a patient. To access this new route, they injected an adeno-associated virus into a large reservoir of cerebrospinal fluid found at the base of the skull in a group of mice, which they hoped would help deliver the virus to the cochlear aqueduct. Thankfully it worked. As a result, the virus helped to deliver a gene therapy that enabled hair cells in the ear to transmit signals. This allowed the mice to be able to hear again. Although their findings have yet to be replicated on humans, their results are still remarkably encouraging.
Maiken Nedergaard, MD, DMSc, senior author of the new study stated: “These findings demonstrate that cerebrospinal fluid transport comprises an accessible route for gene delivery to the adult inner ear and may represent an important step towards using gene therapy to restore hearing in humans."
As their research progresses, it is hoped that studies such as these will eventually pave the way for similar treatments to become available to humans.