Recent advancements in bioelectronic devices to interface with the peripheral vestibular system
Biosensors and Bioelectronics
School of Engineering
Australian Research Council (ARC), Discovery Early Career Researcher Awards (DE180100688, DE170100284)
ARC Numbers : DE170100284, DE180100688
Balance disorders affect approximately 30% of the population throughout their lives and result in debilitating symptoms, such as spontaneous vertigo, nystagmus, and oscillopsia. The main cause of balance disorders is peripheral vestibular dysfunction, which may occur as a result of hair cell loss, neural dysfunction, or mechanical (and morphological) abnormality. The most common cause of vestibular dysfunction is arguably vestibular hair cell damage, which can result from an array of factors, such as ototoxicity, trauma, genetics, and ageing. One promising therapy is the vestibular prosthesis, which leverages the success of the cochlear implant, and endeavours to electrically integrate the primary vestibular afferents with the vestibular scene. Other translational approaches of interest include stem cell regeneration and gene therapies, which aim to restore or modify inner ear receptor function. However, both of these techniques are in their infancy and are currently undergoing further characterization and development in the laboratory, using animal models. Another promising translational avenue to treating vestibular hair cell dysfunction is the potential development of artificial biocompatible hair cell sensors, aiming to replicate functional hair cells and generate synthetic ‘receptor potentials’ for sensory coding of vestibular stimuli to the brain. Recently, artificial hair cell sensors have demonstrated significant promise, with improvements in their output, such as sensitivity and frequency selectivity. This article reviews the history and current state of bioelectronic devices to interface with the labyrinth, spanning the vestibular implant and artificial hair cell sensors.