New medical technique to target cause of age-related hearing loss I USF News


A well-known imaging test that radiologists use to monitor heart blood flow could soon be deployed to determine which part of the ear is experiencing age-related hearing loss.

Robert Frisina, a distinguished university professor and chair of USF’s Department of Medical Engineering, is working with the Moffitt Cancer Center to develop cutting-edge imaging that more accurately identifies problem areas. His team is focusing on the cochlea, a hollow, spiral-shaped, fluid-filled cavity in the temporal bone — also called the inner ear — that has a “biological battery” needed to transmit sound vibration information to the brain. Over time the battery deteriorates and it has been nearly impossible to clinically determine why.

“Diagnosing the state of health of this biological battery in patients is not yet possible. Our innovative imaging approach could make this feasible in the near future for otolaryngologists and audiologists,” Frisina said.

The research team uses medical imaging involving the use of a tracer – a small amount of radioactive material that will allow radiologists to see what is going on inside the ear. It is given intravenously and is commonly used during positron emission tomography (PET) scans.

By differentiating the functionality of different parts of the cochlea, doctors can prescribe medications that will treat that specific area as a future option other than the holistic approach to hearing aid prescription.

Frisina is now tweaking the procedure with an R1 research grant from the National Institutes of Health, one of the most prestigious forms of federal biomedical funding. He hopes that by combining biomedical engineering and imaging with hearing science, his team will begin clinical trials at the end of the two-year grant period – ultimately achieving this translational breakthrough for people with hearing loss. auditory.

This study is in addition to an ongoing $9 million grant awarded to Frisina’s team by the National Institutes of Health to better understand the causes of age-related hearing loss and develop a drug to treat it. He and his group patented a new drug in 2019 and are currently seeking to work with a pharmaceutical company for FDA approval.

The Department of Medical Engineering is a rare joint program between USF College of Engineering and USF Health Morsani College of Medicine. It was established in 2019 with special funding granted to USF following its designation by the Florida Board of Governors as a preeminent state research university.


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