World-First Cochlear Therapy
CINGT (Cochlear Implant Neurotrophin Gene Therapy) Clinical Trial: A first-in-human study of a new UNSW-developed medical technology for directed gene delivery (BaDGE® – Bionic array Directed Gene Electrotransfer), engineered by Cochlear Ltd into a new medical device (a ‘Gene Delivery Array’ for creating an ‘electric field lens’ that focuses DNA delivery to targeted cells in the cochlea); within a new field of DNA therapeutics to regenerate the ‘hearing nerve’. This is based on evolution of the most successful medical bionics device – the cochlear implant – to improve hearing outcomes by using ‘naked’ DNA coding nerve growth factors delivered to targeted cells within the cochlea during cochlear implant surgery, where those cells read the DNA code to produce neurotrophins that stimulate local regrowth of the cochlear nerve in the days and weeks following surgery, to ‘close the neural gap’ with the cochlear implant electrode array, thereby improving the neural interface.
A ‘first-in-human’ clinical trial of cochlear implant recipients directed to regrow the hearing nerve gathered together to share experiences of the rediscovery of their hearing with other trial participants and the research team.
The clinical trial research team includes researchers from UNSW Sydney, University of Sydney, University of Melbourne (Bionics Inst) and Macquarie University, with clinicians from NextSense and the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH), Cochlear Ltd, and collaborators in France and the UK. The clinical trial participants volunteered to receive ‘naked’ DNA encoding ‘neurotrophin’ genes during their cochlear implant surgery. It’s a great example of Australian biomedical ‘bench-to-bedside’ research, highlighting the collaboration of university research, biotech industry and clinical teams, with broad national and international support.