Optogenetic cochlear implant to improve hearing

A research group from the Göttingen Cluster of Excellence Multiscale Bioimaging is working on an optogenetic cochlear implant (oCI).

Electric cochlear implants (eCIs) are used by more than one million people worldwide and enable those affected to understand speech in a quiet environment. But those affected are known to have difficulty understanding speech in background noise, interpreting the emotional tone of speech, or enjoying melodies in music. Therefore, according to researchers, there is a great clinical need to improve hearing with CI.

By combining an optical CI with gene therapy, they hope to achieve a fundamental improvement in frequency resolution. Gene therapy is used to introduce a light-activated ion channel into spiral ganglion neurons of the cochlea and make them light-sensitive.
According to the team, what has already been successful in animal models now needs to be further developed for use in humans. The planned 64-channel optical CI should enable users to understand speech even in noisy environments, recognize speech melodies and enjoy melodies.Moser and his team have already provided preclinical proof of concept for gene therapy of the cochlea and for the optical CI as a new medical device. However, there is still a considerable need for research before the planned start of a first clinical trial in 2026, the group said.
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hil/aerzteblatt.de dtsch aerzteblatt 13.09.2022
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