Earlier this month Action on Hearing Loss joined scientists, pharmaceutical companies and clinicians from around the world in Hanover, Germany, to discuss the latest developments in treatments for inner ear-related diseases, including hearing loss and tinnitus.
Organised by the International Society of Inner Ear Therapeutics, this year’s symposium had a strong focus on gene and cell-based therapies, and the development of drugs to protect or restore hearing. It was great to see many Action on Hearing Loss-funded researchers presenting their latest findings.
Gene therapy is one of the most promising areas currently being explored. At the symposium, a number of researchers presented their research into finding ways of correcting faulty genes to restore hearing. A key challenge is targeting these gene therapies to the correct cells of the inner ear and was an area of much discussion. With very promising results in animal models, it is expected that some of these therapies may progress into clinical trials soon.
Research aiming to promote regeneration of the auditory nerve was also highlighted at the meeting. Cochlear implants work by directly stimulating the auditory nerve, so a healthy auditory nerve is vital for a good outcome. Important research was presented at the meeting, describing new ways to promote the re-growth of auditory nerve cells towards the cochlear implant electrode. One of the studies presented described an approach for local gene therapy delivery through a cochlear implant. The gene delivered encodes a protein that promotes the re-growth of the auditory nerve. The treatment is now being clinically tested (CINGT trial) in Australia.
Advances were also presented in tinnitus research, including research into a treatment for tinnitus that pairs electrical stimulation of the tongue with sound stimulation. There are currently no therapies to silence tinnitus, a condition that can have a severe impact on the quality of life of those affected.
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