International research coalition verifies safe surgical access to the central core of the human cochlea for the very first time

  • A team of surgeons and scientists from the UK, Sweden and Canada, funded by Rinri Therapeutics, has confirmed secure surgical access to the central core of the human cochlea
  • The research is critical to the first in-human trials of new cell, gene and drug therapies for the inner ear, and will assist with treatment for improving hearing loss and deafness over the long-term

SHEFFIELD, UK, 9 November 2022: An international team of surgeons and scientists has, for the first time, validated safe surgical access to the central core of the human cochlea in a study funded by Rinri Therapeutics, a biotechnology company developing regenerative cell therapies for sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).

The team from Guy’s and St. Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust in London, and the universities of Uppsala (Sweden), Sheffield, Nottingham, and Western University in  Canada, have proven and confirmed a secure clinical pathway to the inner ear, which will enable the application of a range of regenerative therapies to restore hearing.

The human cochlea lies in the base of the skull, encased by the hardest bone in the human body. This has hampered the progress of discovering new treatments for hearing loss. Using a detailed representation of the microanatomy of the peripheral auditory neural structure, surgeons have now been able to reach the human cochlea safely with routine surgical approach.

Marcelo Rivolta, Professor of Sensory Stem Cell Biology at the University of Sheffield and Founder of Rinri Therapeutics said: “These results open the door to a region of the inner ear that has, thus far, been inaccessible in human and which will spearhead first in-human trials of new cell, gene and drug therapies.

“Rinri’s human pluripotent stem cell-derived otic neuroprogenitors are a particularly attractive advanced therapy medicinal product (ATMP). Their ability to repair the auditory nerve was demonstrated in a mammalian model (Chen et al, Nature 490, 278–282 (2012)). However, its translation into humans has until now been hampered by limited anatomical knowledge and the lack of a safe access to the Rosenthal’s canal, the compartment that houses the auditory neurons within the central core of the cochlea.

“We believe these findings will have immediate impact on both our understanding of the microstructure of the inner ear and on future clinical initiatives which are urgently needed to reduce the global health burden caused by deafness.” 

Professor Helge Rask-Anderson from Uppsala University said: “ We are pleased to be a part of this exciting project with our international colleagues that may form a ground pillar for clinical trials.”

Dr Simon Chandler, CEO of Rinri Therapeutics, said: “We are delighted to have been able to collaborate with teams across the world to fund this ground-breaking research.

“People with severe hearing loss often suffer an enormous negative impact on their quality of life, withdrawing from their communities because their disability inhibits interactions with others.

“This research now paves the way for the successful delivery of our regenerative cell therapy for hearing loss, that will bring significant positive impacts to healthcare systems and economies across the globe.”

Professor Dan Jiang, Director of the Hearing Implant Centre at Guy’s and St. Thomas Hospital, and Chief Investigator on the project, said: “This research provides intuitive knowledge to ear surgeons about the targets of the future cell, gene and drug therapies, and will allow them to reach to those targets safely, as they have been trained to do.”

Gerry O’Donoghue, Professor of Otology and Neurotology at the University of Nottingham, and Clinical Advisor to Rinri Therapeutics: “The inaccessibility of the human cochlea has hampered the progress of curative treatments for SNHL to date. These findings however will enable the safe delivery of regenerative therapeutics to their target structures within the relatively impenetrable human cochlea, de-risking future clinical interventions and paving the way for clinical trials.”

Professor Sumit Agrawal, from Western University in Canada said: “We are delighted that our data was able to contribute to such a vital piece of research, which will enable significant advancements in the clinical trials and treatment of sensorineural hearing loss.”