They used electrical pulses delivered from a cochlear implant to deliver gene therapy, thereby successfully regrowing auditory nerves.
The research, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, also heralds a possible new way of treating a range of neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, and psychiatric conditions including depression through the new way of delivering gene therapy.
The study’s senior author, Professor Gary Housley, of the University of New South Wales in Australia, said: ‘People with cochlear implants do well with understanding speech, but their perception of pitch can be poor, so they often miss out on the joy of music.
‘Ultimately, we hope that after further research, people who depend on cochlear implant devices will be able to enjoy a broader dynamic and tonal range of sound, which is particularly important for our sense of the auditory world around us and for music appreciation.’
The research, which has been five years in development, centres on regenerating surviving nerves after age-related or environmental hearing loss, using existing cochlear technology.