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RL-81 Could Be Promising Drug Candidate for Noise-Induced Tinnitus

March 30, 2021

Thanos Tzounopolous, PhDThanos Tzounopoulos, PhD, professor and vice chair of research in the Department of Otolaryngology, recently published an article in the Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology on his work in pharmacological treatment for tinnitus. 

Dr. Tzounopolous has been researching tinnitus for many years, but recently, studies have shown that the compound he developed (RL-81) may be effective at treating tinnitus for longer than originally thought. 

In mice, one of the major underlying mechanisms of noise-induced tinnitus is hyperactivity of auditory brainstem neurons due in part to decreased KCNQ2/3 potassium channel activity. Previous studies of tinnitus using a mouse model showed that administration of a KCNQ channel activator immediately after noise trauma prevented the development of tinnitus. 

In this study, researchers developed RL-81, a potent and highly specific activator of KCNQ2/3 channels, which was then tested in a modified operant animal model of tinnitus. The transient administration of RL-81 one week after noise exposure did not affect hearing loss, but significantly reduced the number of mice with evidence of tinnitus. 

These results indicate that RL-81 is a promising drug candidate for further development for the treatment of noise-induced tinnitus. 

Learn more from the Eye and Ear Foundation of Pittsburgh and read the full study here.