Systemic application of drugs is commonly used in clinical situations. Some of these drugs are ototoxic. Since there are few studies on in vivo monitoring of drug delivery dynamics, the time course or bioavailability of drugs in the inner ear of live animals following systemic drug application remains unknown. For instance, it is unknown whether the volume of a drug delivered systemically correlates with its inner ear pharmacokinetics. We previously established a new in vivo imaging system to monitor drug delivery in live mice. In the present study, we used this system to compare drug concentration in the inner ear over time after systemic drug injections. We used transgenic GFAP-Luc mice that harbor a firefly luciferase gene expression cassette regulated by 12 kb of murine GFAP promoter and human beta-globin intron 2. Luciferin delivered into the inner ear of these mice reacts with luciferase, and the resulting signals are detected in GFAP-expressing cells in the cochlear nerve. Thus, we assessed in the inner ear the intensity and duration of luciferin/luciferase signals after systemic injections of different volumes of luciferin. An IVIS® imaging system was used to observe signals, and these signals were compared to the drug dynamics of luciferin delivered through subcutaneous (sc) injections. The volume of sc-injected drug correlated significantly with photon counts measured in the inner ear. Photons were detected almost immediately after injection, peaking 20 min after injection. Drug concentration did not affect inner ear signals. Luciferin injected systemically appeared in the inner ear between highest and lowest concentration. Drug volume is an important parameter to know if the inner ear requires a higher level of the drug. We observed that it is the volume of a drug—not its concentration—that is the important factor. Indeed, the more volume of a drug injected systemically increased the concentration of that drug in the inner ear. This study provides a better understanding of in vivo drug delivery dynamics measured in the inner ear. Further studies will show whether a high dosage of drug is effective or not.
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