Developing Micropump for Hearing-Loss Treatments

"Pioneering studies in the areas of auditory gene therapy and chemotherapy have produced exciting results showing potential for protection and regeneration of sensory systems in the inner ear," explains David Borkholder, the project's principal investigator and an assistant professor of electrical engineering in RIT's Kate Gleason College of Engineering. More elaborate treatments are needed to achieve full restoration of hearing in animal models and for translational results in human clinical trials."

Borkholder is collaborating with the University of Rochester Medical Center to develop an implantable, refillable, variable-flow micropump platform for intracochlear drug delivery for deafness therapy research. Initially, a device will be designed for and tested using mice.

"This micropump will enable chronic, calibrated delivery of multiple therapeutic agents that is not possible with existing pump technologies" explains Borkholder, an expert in biomedical engineering and micoelectromechanical systems.

The project is expected to provide a detailed understanding of acceptable dose and timing profiles for intracochlear drug delivery in mice without detriment to cochlear function. The technology is scaleable to use in humans and may be particularly useful in pediatrics.

Robert D. Frisina, a professor and associate chair of otolaryngology and professor of biomedical engineering and neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Rochester Medical Center, is serving as research mentor: "Although some people are helped with hearing aids, the majority of those with hearing loss or hearing-related balance disorders go untreated," Frisina says. "A critical step for implementing research aimed at repairing or restoring nerve cells that are damaged or missing in the inner ear is to develop more precise, calibrated micropumps for delivering chemotherapeutic, gene-therapy or stem-cell therapeutic agents, first for animal research, then for clinical trials. This project is a critical step forward in developing microfabricated pumps. Longer-term goals include developing and testing inner ear micropumps for clinical applications to treat human inner-ear hearing and balance problems."

COMPAMED.de; Source: Rochester Institute of Technology