Alec Salt, PhD
Washington University School of Medicine
Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery
660 S. Euclid Ave., Campus Box 8115
St. Louis, MO 63110
Drug Delivery to the Inner Ear
The application of drugs directly to the ear is increasingly being used to treat clinical problems, such as Meniere's disease and idiopathic sudden hearing loss. We are performing pharmacokinetic studies to quantify how quickly drugs spread through the ear, which tissues they reach and what doses are achieved at different locations. Experimental results are interpreted with the aid of computer models based on the physical processes involved in drug dispersal, such as diffusion and volume flow. The models permit drug distribution patterns to be estimated for the human cochlea, which in turn allows clinical drug application protocols to be optimized.
Interpretation of Distortions Generated by the Ear for Diagnostic Purposes
Acoustic emissions, measured by a sensitive microphone in the ear canal, can be used to diagnose disorders of the ear. We are specifically interested in a class of distortions which are not presently used clinically, specifically even-order distortions (second harmonics and f2-f1 emissions). These distortions are highly dependent on the resting position of the cochlear transducer and are influenced by endolymph volume disturbances. We are developing methods that will allow these distortions to be used as non-invasive measures of endolymphatic hydrops, a pathology that is hard to diagnose at present.
3-D Anatomy of the Inner Ear
In order to generate accurate computer models of the ear, it is necessary to have a detailed understanding of the 3D geometry of the cochlear fluid compartments. We are using a number of imaging methods (MRI, OPFOS, microCT) to scan the ear in high resolution. These data sets allow us to reconstruct the 3D geometry of the inner ear compartments in detail. The reconstructed structures are also highly valuable in teaching students and patients about the structures of the ear. For more information visit Dr. Salt's Lab