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Keywords:

  • organ of Corti explant;
  • electrode insertion trauma;
  • inflammation;
  • hair cells;
  • apoptosis;
  • wound healing;
  • fibrosis;
  • glucocorticoid;
  • otoprotection

Abstract

This study presents a novel in vitro model of electrode insertion trauma-induced hair cell (HC) damage and loss and its application for testing the efficacy of otoprotective drugs. In the cochlear implant (CI) procedure as a treatment for profound deafness, an electrode array is surgically inserted to provide electrical stimulation to the auditory nerve. Mechanical trauma from insertion of a CI electrode into the scala tympani can lead to inflammation and a high level of oxidative stress, which can initiate the apoptosis of auditory HCs and intracochlear fibrosis. HC apoptosis and intracochlear fibrosis are thought to be causes of poor CI functional outcomes. In order to gain insight into the molecular mechanisms that initiate HC apoptosis and scala tympani fibrosis following electrode insertion trauma (EIT), and the otoprotective effects of dexamethasone (DXM) observed in previous studies, an in vitro model of EIT was designed. Here we present and characterize a novel, reproducible in vitro model for the study of cellular and molecular events that occur following an EIT procedure. Cochleae from 3-day-old rats were subjected to a cochleostomy and were then divided into three groups: (1) control, (2) EIT, and (3) EIT + DXM (20 μg/mL). In Groups 2 and 3, a 0.28-mm diameter monofilament fishing line was introduced through the small cochleostomy located next to the round window area, allowing for an insertion of between 110° and 150°. HC counts, gene expression for pro-inflammatory cytokines (i.e., TNFα and IL-1β), pro-inflammatory inducible enzymes (i.e., iNOS and COX-2) and growth factors (i.e., TGFβ1, TGFβ3 and CTGF), oxidative stress (i.e., CellROX), and analyses of apoptosis pathways (i.e., caspase-3, apoptosis induced factor and Endonuclease G) were carried out on all explants at different time points. The results of this EIT in vitro model show the initiation of wound healing in which an inflammatory response is followed by a proliferative-fibrosis phase. Moreover, DXM treatment of EIT explants inhibited the inflammatory response and promoted a nonscarring wound healing process. The novel in vitro model described here will improve our understanding of mechanisms underlying CI insertion trauma and protective strategies such as DXM treatment. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.