The five senses in the human body are complex processes which involve transmission of response to any stimuli which are finally analyzed in the brain. Science today has made it possible to restore the lost senses to some extent with a clever mix of ingenuity and some gene therapy.
Researchers have succeeded in amalgamating cochlear impact with gene therapy and in the process allow the re-growth of auditory nerves. This revolutionary breakthrough will enable persons with cochlear implants to hear better but it will also be a big leap in the field of neurology and psychological research and treatment.
The magic compound is Neurotrophins, which are naturally occurring proteins which play a big role in the development of neurons, its functions and survival. It is common knowledge that neurotrophins if delivered to the cochlea of the ear can induce the nerve endings to regenerate. However the tricky part was to deliver the neurotrophins to the cochlea of the ear which was not possible by conventional means of drug delivery or viral based gene therapy. It is here the ingenuity of the researchers from the University of New South Wales in Australia came handy- a way was found to combine cochlear implants with gene therapy to get the job done.
Cochlear implants have been around for years. It is basically an electronic device which replaces the functions of the damaged inner ear. Unlike hearing aids which functions by making the sounds louder, the cochlear implants helps to transmit the sound signals to the brain much like the inner ear. The surgeons injected a DNA solution into the cochlear implant, in the close proximity of the implanted electrodes. Electric impulses which were transmitted from the cochlear to the electrodes also sent the DNA solutions to the electrodes and the cells were able to produce neurotrophins which induced the regeneration of auditory nerves.
Scientists have just made this amazing discovery and it could go much beyond the treatment of auditory disorders. It could find wide applications in people with neurological disorders as well as directed gene therapy through deep brain stimulation.