Sensory hair cells (blue) and the auditory nerve fibres (pink) are connected to each other by small synapses (red and green puncta) that enable us to detect sound and convey this information to the brain. However, these sensory elements are easily damaged leading to hearing impairment. This can start with difficulty in understanding speech in noisy environments and progress to more significant hearing loss. A/Prof Wise and his team are developing therapeutic technology to treat damaged hearing and translate this to the clinic.
Noise and age-related hearing loss are the main causes of hearing impairment in humans. Hearing loss affects our ability to communicate with loved ones, and is associated with dementia, social isolation, and depression. Although nearly half a billion people world-wide have significant hearing loss (set to double in 30yrs) there is no drug treatment currently available. Our research aims to change this.
Our pre-clinical research shows that delivering a class of growth factors (called neurotrophins) to the inner ear can treat hearing loss. However, difficulty in delivering neurotrophins directly to the inner ear has prevented the clinical translation of this treatment. Using nanotechnology we have developed a novel way to deliver neurotrophins that solves this problem paving the way for a future clinical trial. However, up until now this technology has only been suitable for pre-clinical research under laboratory conditions. To enable us to progress this exciting technology to a clinical trial we need to develop a clinical grade system suitable for human trial.
Therefore, the aim of this project is to develop a clinical grade hearing loss therapy and undertake a first-in-human trial.