Texas Biomedical Device Center to Support Tinnitus Study
Oct. 31, 2012
The Texas Biomedical Device Center at UT Dallas has agreed to partner with neuroscience-based medical device company MicroTransponder to conduct one of the first U.S. clinical tests of a novel tinnitus therapy developed by the University’s researchers.
The therapeutic approach developed at UT Dallas pairs audible tones with brief pulses of electrical stimulation to the vagus nerve. Preclinical tests demonstrated that this approach “rewires” damaged brain circuitry associated with tinnitus, potentially yielding long-term reversal of symptoms. No device-related adverse events were seen in the initial human safety study conducted in Belgium, and the initial results were encouraging.*
The Texas Biomedical Device Center plans to support a small cohort of subjects in a clinical trial designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the novel tinnitus therapy.
Many patients describe tinnitus as a persistent, annoying and painful ringing in the ears. Tinnitus causes mild irritation for some people, but is severely disabling for many others. Nerve damage or trauma to the cochlea – the portion of the inner ear that converts sound waves into electrical signals in the brain – can result in a loss of input to the brain. This lack of input can result in changes to the auditory system, which is believed to be responsible for some forms of tinnitus.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, tinnitus is the number one military service disability, affecting more than 850,000 U.S. veterans.
“In tinnitus, the areas of the brain that previously received signals from the damaged area of the cochlea are now just sitting there with nothing to do,” explained Dr. Robert Rennaker, interim director of the Texas Biomedical Device Center and an associate professor of electrical engineering and neuroscience at UT Dallas. “The lack of input causes the brain to reorganize, and some portions become hyperactive and generate the perception of sound known as tinnitus. By shrinking the hyperactive pathways, we hope to be able to alleviate symptoms.”
In cooperation with MicroTransponder and UT Dallas’s Callier Center for Communication Disorders, the Texas Biomedical Device Center plans to support a small cohort of subjects in a clinical trial designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the novel tinnitus therapy. The trial is expected to commence in 2013.
“The relationship between MicroTransponder and UT Dallas exemplifies the rationale for the development of the Texas Biomedical Device Center,” said Dr. Bruce Gnade, vice president for research at UT Dallas. “By partnering with researchers, clinicians and industry, we are committed to developing technologies that have the potential to alleviate pain and suffering for millions of people. In addition, we are driving economic activity in North Texas.”
MicroTransponder’s CEO Frank McEachern added, “It is crucial for these novel scientific discoveries in the University lab to be quickly translated into therapies in the clinic for patients. This can be an expensive and onerous process. But the Texas Biomedical Device Center is an incredible resource, helping small companies like ours collaborate with the world-class medical and engineering talent in North Dallas.”
The Texas Biomedical Device Center was established at UT Dallas in the spring of 2012. Faculty members from the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Sciences, and the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics contribute to the center’s interdisciplinary research efforts to create new biomedical technology and therapies.
MicroTransponder was founded in 2007 as an outgrowth of neuroscience research at UT Dallas. The mission of the company is to develop neurostimulation device platforms to treat neurological diseases including tinnitus, chronic pain and stroke.
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*CAUTION – Investigational device. Limited by Federal law to investigational use.
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