For patients with profound hearing loss a cochlear implant (CI) is the only treatment today. The function of a CI depends in part of the function and survival of the remaining spiral ganglion neurons (SGN). It is well known from animal models that inner ear infusion of neurotrophic factors prevents SGN degeneration and maintains electrical responsiveness in deafened animals. The purpose with this study was to investigate the effects of a novel encapsulated cell (EC) device releasing neurotrophic factors in the deafened guinea pig.
The results showed that an EC device releasing glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) or brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) implanted for four weeks in deafened guinea pigs significantly preserved the SGNs and maintained their electrical responsiveness. There was a significant difference between BDNF and GDNF in favour of GDNF. This study, demonstrating positive structural and functional effects in the deafened inner ear, suggests that an implanted EC device releasing biologically protective substances offers a feasible approach for treating progressive hearing impairment.