Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is a source of significant morbidity and in isolated cases is irreversible.
Most cases of SNHL are associated with damage or loss of cochlear hair cells. The diagnosis of SNHL is
based primarily on audiometric testing as the inner ear cannot be “biopsied” without causing profound
hearing loss. Contemporary imaging techniques (computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI)) provide a macroscopic glimpse of peripheral and central auditory pathways but cannot
resolve detailed anatomy of the inner ear, at the cellular level. The rapidly growing field of hair cell
regeneration is poised to transform our ability to improve SNHL using small molecule or gene therapy
approaches but is hampered by the inability to directly image hair cell pathology.
Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI), in collaboration with the Eaton Peabody Laboratories at the Massachusetts
Eye and Ear Infirmary (MEEI) proposes to develop a multimodal endoscopic imaging system that combines
optical coherence tomography (OCT) and auto-fluorescence imaging (AFI) to simultaneously acquire
anatomical and biochemical changes of the cochlea, which can be used to diagnose SNHL. During a
Phase I program, PSI has developed a bench-top OCT/AFI instrument and has demonstrated the feasibility
of this approach to reliably visualize intracochlear anatomy and biochemical functionality in a mouse animal
model of SNHL. In a Phase II program we propose to develop an endoscopic OCT/AFI instrument with
improved performance, suitable for in vivo use in a large animal model of SNHL. If successful, this
technology will be a major step forward in our ability to diagnose SNHL and guide future targeted therapies
for inner ear regeneration. Furthermore, this technology will be invaluable in surgical planning during
hearing preservation approaches for cochlear implantation.