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About this author
Zack Lynch is author of The Neuro Revolution: How Brain Science Is Changing Our World (St. Martin's Press, July 2009).
He is the founder and executive director of the Neurotechnology Industry Organization (NIO) and co-founder of NeuroInsights. He serves on the advisory boards of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, Science Progress, and SocialText, a social software company. Please send newsworthy items or feedback - to Zack Lynch.
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March 20, 2003

Sensoceuticals to Restore Hearing Loss

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Posted by Zack Lynch

To date, media attention across the emerging field of neurotechnology has primarily focused on neural prosthetics that are electro-mechanical in nature.


For example, to help the hearing impaired, cochlear implants have been developed that translate sound waves collected via a tiny microphone into electrical impulses. Most people with profound deafness have lost the ability to translate the acoustic energy of sound into the electrical signals carried to the brain by the 30,000 fibers of the auditory nerve.  Cochlear implants bypass the external and middle ears by using electrical stimulation of electrodes implanted in the cochlea to reintroduce the signals carried by auditory nerve fibers to the brain.


As exciting and important as electro-mechanical advances like this are, they represent just one type of neurotechnology that will be developed in the coming years to restore and enhance human sensory systems, such as hearing. 


Sensoceuticals, sensory-specific biopharmaceuticals, use a different approach to restore and enhance human sensory systems.  Sensoceuticals leverage the natural regenerative capacity of our genes, proteins, and neurons to re-grow damaged sensory tissues and extend sensation capacity.


For example, sensoceuticals for hearing will be able to prevent and restore hearing loss. Current research indicates that the inner ear can be protected from the irreversible effects of noise damage using sensoceuticals. This will be an important breakthrough for soldiers who, due to the complexity of the today’s battlefield, can’t wear earplugs to protect their ears.


For those people who already have substantial hearing loss, researchers are also optimizing compounds that antagonize specific cell cycle proteins resulting in new cell division or proliferation. Most exciting is that these newly dividing cells have the capacity to become replacement auditory hair cells, restoring hearing loss for the deaf or partially deaf.


As the field of neurotechnology evolves it will be interesting to see how the developments occurring “from the inside” begin to mingle and compete for funding resources with advances coming “from the outside.”

Comments (3) | Category: Neuropharma


COMMENTS

1. Gerrie Ryan on January 10, 2004 5:15 AM writes...

This is exciting stuff. How soon will something become available? Is this still in the lab phase, or have you done trials on humans?
Thanks

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2. m sharaki on January 24, 2004 7:51 AM writes...

I am suffring from hearing loss since more than 30 years, can any of the above be of help

M Sharaki

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3. Matt on April 16, 2004 1:23 AM writes...

This is really interesting news, I would like to know the follow up on this technology. Is it being worked on, is it being testd. I am hard of hearing and I really want to do a job that requires no hearing loss and this would be "ideal" for me. If someone could get back with me and let me know the "status" of this technology I would be greatly appreciated.

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