By Matthew B. West

While HEI remains committed to developing therapeutics for treating hearing loss and related auditory disorders, we are explorers at heart and are constantly on the look-out for new territories of medical need that we can venture into with our innovations. For instance, HEI researchers have discovered our hearing loss pill technology also shows possible therapeutic efficacy against head injuries and related clinical indicators of progressive neurological diseases, like chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. You might ask, “How is this possible?” We would point out this is a really astute question, and it boils down to the ability of our pill technology to short-circuit primary nerve damage, as well as some potentially harmful aspects of the natural healing response that are designed to urgently deal with traumas but have a tendency to create collateral damage in their haste. If left unchecked, these processes can generate chemical stressors that can have long-lasting effects on the fragile nerve cells in the peripheral and central nervous systems. In the auditory system, these stress pathways can be triggered by a loud, damaging noise exposure or other acoustic traumas. Some aspects of these trauma-related stress pathways are also initiated when an individual experiences a concussive head trauma. In some chronic diseases, these pathways are constantly triggered, creating a hostile environment for normal nerve health and function.

HEI scientists are currently working hard to unravel how to translate the therapeutic effects of our hearing loss pill to address this fundamental clinical need for a drug that treats or prevents nerve degeneration induced by traumatic brain injury or disease. As we shared in a prior newsletter article, one insidious aspect of these kinds of traumas or diseases is the unintentional malfunctioning of a normal cellular protein, tau, to become a toxic byproduct that recruits other healthy tau proteins to carry out harmful activities in nerve cells. The ability to block or reverse this “Jekyll and Hyde” behavior is central to unlocking treatments for a number of these diseases and disorders, and the hearing loss pill technology has shown considerable promise for this purpose. Our goal is to expand, validate, and advance these findings in targeted studies conducted at HEI and in collaborative projects with leading independent research laboratories in the field. Fully funding this project would create synergy that dramatically advances the trajectory of the pill technology to the clinic for these clinical indications and would support first-in-class therapeutic relief efforts for countless individuals worldwide. This is an exciting time at HEI, and we look forward to sharing timely updates with you in the months ahead. Watch this space!