BionicVEST

A bionic prosthesis for vestibular disorders that will improve the lives of millions of people by recovering their postural balance

BionicVEST foresee bringing a commercially viable, highly technological breakthrough solution for the severe vestibular disorders with the potential to improve the lives of millions by recovering their postural equilibrium. BionicVEST aspires to be the third bionic prosthesis in human history after cochlear implant and retinal prosthesis. The cochlear implant is the only bionic prosthesis capable of satisfactorily restoring a sense. The performance of the retinal prosthesis is technologically limited allowing for relatively low resolution and basic daily activities only. A vestibular prosthesis can over-perform the later in becoming a commercial reality.

Vertigo of vestibular origin has a global prevalence of 38% in the elderly and deserves special attention because of the high risk of falls and permanent functional disability, and even death. This seriously handicaps their lives, disabling them of doing routine daily activities, such as driving and even walking. The associated total costs are around 60.000 million euros in Europe. It is estimated that at least 100 million people worldwide could benefit from a vestibular implant as an effective solution to this disease. Restoring the function of the vestibular labyrinths was not possible until now. Current devices, under research, detect change in angular velocity of the cephalic movements through gyroscopes and use this information to stimulate the semicircular canals. However, they do not code vertical and horizontal accelerations, used to sense gravitational forces, keep a stand up position and restore the sense of self-position. Linear accelerations are detected by a different set of structures which are more complex and harder to access: the saccule and utricle.

This project will develop the first system to electrically reproduce linear accelerations in the otolith organ by stimulating their neural ends.

The project will have three phases: Device design, fabrication and clinical trial.

Therefore, the objectives will be:

1) to study, for the first time, vestibular pathways through electrical saccule-utricle stimulation;

2) to develop a vestibular response telemetry system to analyse the evoked action potential of vestibular nerve;

3) to design, manufacture and test the first vestibular prosthesis that restores the sense of linear accelerations.

The main objectives are to demonstrate the safety of a vestibular implant for humans, to determine its efficacy in restoring vestibular function by measuring improvement on the patient and justify it through the patient’s Quality of Life improvement.

Participants:

UNIVERSIDAD DE LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA (SPAIN)

UNIVERSIDAD DE NAVARRA (SPAIN)

DIENST NEUS-KEEL-OOR SINT-AUGUSTINUS ANTWERPEN (BELGIUM)

UNIVERSITA DEGLI STUDI DI ROMA LA SAPIENZA (ITALY)

COCHLEAR RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT LIMITED (UK)

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