Researchers develop first implanted device to treat balance disorder

Following a successful surgery on Oct. 21, a patient at the University of Washington Medical Center became the world’s first recipient of a device that aims to quell the disabling vertigo associated with Meniere’s disease.

The device being tested — a cochlear implant and processor with re-engineered software and electrode arrays — represents four-plus years of work by Jay T. Rubinstein and James O. Phillips of UW’s Department of Otolaryngology, both of whom are WaNPRC affiliate scientists. Their team also included WaNPRC researchers Albert Fuchs (emeritus), Chris Kaneko, Leo Ling, Steven Bierer, and Kaibao Nie.

The team hopes success in a 10-person surgical trial of Meniere’s patients will lead to exploration of its usefulness against other common balance disorders that impact millions of people worldwide.

The device epitomizes the translational advancements pursued at UW’s academic medical centers, Rubenstein said. He credited the team’s skills and its access to WaNPRC labs, which facilitated the quick turnaround of results that helped win the FDA’s support.

For more information, read the UW news release.