EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT OF BIONICS VESTIBULAR IMPLANT FOR BILATERAL VESTIBULAR DYSFUNCTION
Vertigo of vestibular origin has a global prevalence of 38% in the elderly and deserves special attention becauseof 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 arearound 60.000 million euros in Europe. It is estimated that at least 100 million people worldwide could benefitfrom a vestibular implant as an effective solution to this disease. Restoring the function of the vestibularlabyrinths was not possible until now. Current devices, under research, detect change in angular velocity of thecephalic 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 positionand restore the sense of self-position. Linear accelerations are detected by a different set of structures which are amore complex and harder to access: the saccule and utricle. This project will develop the first system toelectrically reproduce linear accelerations in the otolith organ by stimulating their neural ends. The project willhave three phases: Device design, fabrication and clinical trial. Therefore, the objectives will be: 1) to study, forthe first time, vestibular pathways through electrical saccule-utricle stimulation; 2) to develop a vestibularresponse telemetry system to analyse the evoked action potential of vestibular nerve; 3) to design, manufactureand test the first vestibular prosthesis that restores the sense of linear accelerations. The main objectives are todemonstrate the safety of a vestibular implant for human, to determine its efficacy in restoring vestibular functionby measuring the improvement in objective and to objectify the improvement in Quality of Life of patients.