, Volume 269, Issue 4, pp 1111-1116
Date: 28 Sep 2011

Oriented collagen as a potential cochlear implant electrode surface coating to achieve directed neurite outgrowth

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Abstract

In patients with severe to profound hearing loss, cochlear implants (CIs) are currently the only therapeutic option when the amplification with conventional hearing aids does no longer lead to a useful hearing experience. Despite its great success, there are patients in which benefit from these devices is rather limited. One reason may be a poor neuron-device interaction, where the electric fields generated by the electrode array excite a wide range of tonotopically organized spiral ganglion neurons at the cost of spatial resolution. Coating of CI electrodes to provide a welcoming environment combined with suitable surface chemistry (e.g. with neurotrophic factors) has been suggested to create a closer bioelectrical interface between the electrode array and the target tissue, which might lead to better spatial resolution, better frequency discrimination, and ultimately may improve speech perception in patients. Here we investigate the use of a collagen surface with a cholesteric banding structure, whose orientation can be systemically controlled as a guiding structure for neurite outgrowth. We demonstrate that spiral ganglion neurons survive on collagen-coated surfaces and display a directed neurite growth influenced by the direction of collagen fibril deposition. The majority of neurites grow parallel to the orientation direction of the collagen. We suggest collagen coating as a possible future option in CI technology to direct neurite outgrowth and improve hearing results for affected patients.

This work was in part presented as an invited keynote lecture at the “1st Congress of the Confederation of European Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, Head and Neck Surgery”, 2–6 July 2011, Barcelona, Spain.