Living Electrodes for Hearing Rehabilitation

Ashrita Nagpal


COL 2023


Assistant Professor

Project Summary

Sensorineural hearing loss affects roughly 9 out of 10 people with hearing loss. As the name implies, sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by damage to the sensory organs (typically hair cells in the cochlea) or the auditory nerve. The cochlear implant, a device surgically implanted in the cochlea, attempts to restore the function of damaged hair cells. Meanwhile, an auditory brainstem implant, an electrode implanted in the midbrain or cortex, attempts to restore the function of a damaged auditory nerve. In our research project, we attempt to re-create the neural auditory pathway that extends from the cochlea to the auditory cortex. To do so in-vitro, we are harvesting 3 neuronal subtypes from rats and culturing them in microelectrodes that allow the subtypes to extend processes (axons and dendrites) bidirectionally to neighboring subtypes, as they would in-vivo. After conducting tests of growth and electrical activity in the in-vitro microelectrode, we will implant it back into postnatal rats suffering from neural loss.

This research experience gave me exposure to cutting-edge techniques in neuroscience, such as optogenetics. It taught me how to set goals and achieve them through daily tasks. I’m excited to have gained exposure to the medical model of deafness, and a potential clinical treatment that utilizes the body’s own mechanisms (regenerative medicine). I’m really excited to continue this project through the academic year!

To see my poster, please visit Penn Presents: