The efficacy of a TrkB monoclonal antibody agonist in preserving the auditory nerve in deafened guinea pigs

Henk A Vink, Dyan Ramekers, Alan C Foster, Huib Versnel*

*Corresponding author for this work

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The auditory nerve typically degenerates following loss of cochlear hair cells or synapses. In the case of hair cell loss neural degeneration hinders restoration of hearing through a cochlear implant, and in the case of synaptopathy suprathreshold hearing is affected, potentially degrading speech perception in noise. It has been established that neurotrophins such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and neurotrophin-3 (NT-3) can mitigate auditory nerve degeneration. Several potential BDNF mimetics have also been investigated for neurotrophic effects in the cochlea. A recent in vitro study showed favorable effects of M3, a TrkB monoclonal antibody agonist, when compared with BDNF. In the present study we set out to examine the effect of M3 on auditory nerve preservation in vivo. Thirty-one guinea pigs were bilaterally deafened, and unilaterally treated with a single 3-µl dose of 7 mg/ml, 0.7 mg/ml M3 or vehicle-only by means of a small gelatin sponge two weeks later. During the experiment and analyses the experimenters were blinded to the three treatment groups. Four weeks after treatment, we assessed the treatment effect (1) histologically, by quantifying survival of SGCs and their peripheral processes (PPs); and (2) electrophysiologically, with two different paradigms of electrically evoked compound action potential (eCAP) recordings shown to be indicative of neural health: single-pulse stimulation with varying inter-phase gap (IPG), and pulse-train stimulation with varying inter-pulse interval. We observed a consistent and significant preservative effect of M3 on SGC survival in the lower basal turn (approximately 40% more survival than in the untreated contralateral cochlea), but also in the upper middle and lower apical turn of the cochlea. This effect was similar for the two treatment groups. Survival of PPs showed a trend similar to that of the SGCs, but was only significantly higher for the highest dose of M3. The protective effect of M3 on SGCs was not reflected in any of the eCAP measures: no statistically significant differences were observed between groups in IPG effect nor between the M3 treatment groups and the control group using the pulse-train stimulation paradigm. In short, while a clear effect of M3 was observed on SGC survival, this was not clearly translated into functional preservation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108895
Number of pages16
JournalHearing Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2023


  • Hearing loss
  • IPG effect
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Neuroprotection
  • Spiral ganglion cell
  • TrkB receptor agonist
  • cochlea
  • eCAP
  • neurotrophic factor


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