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. Frisina is also distinguished researcher in biological sciences in RIT's College of Science and professor of communication sciences and associate director of the International Center for Hearing and Speech Research at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at RIT.
"Although some people are helped with hearing aids, the majority of those with hearing loss or hearing-related balance disorders go untreated," Frisina says. "Future biomedical interventions will be aimed at treating the underlying biological problems that cause permanent sensorineural hearing loss rather than trying to amplify and filter incoming sounds with hearing aids.
"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."