Living Electrodes for Hearing Rehabilitation
Sensorineural hearing loss affects roughly 9 out of 10 people with hearing loss. As the name implies, sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by damage to the sensory organs (typically hair cells in the cochlea) or the auditory nerve. The cochlear implant, a device surgically implanted in the cochlea, attempts to restore the function of damaged hair cells. Meanwhile, an auditory brainstem implant, an electrode implanted in the midbrain or cortex, attempts to restore the function of a damaged auditory nerve. In our research project, we attempt to re-create the neural auditory pathway that extends from the cochlea to the auditory cortex. To do so in-vitro, we are harvesting 3 neuronal subtypes (spiral ganglion neurons, cortical neurons, and thalamic neurons) from postnatal rats. Then, we culture the neurons in microelectrodes that allow the subtypes to extend axons and dendrites bidirectionally to neighboring subtypes, as they would in-vivo. After conducting tests of growth and electrical activity of the in-vitro microelectrode, we will implant it back into postnatal rats suffering from neural loss.