Project

UNITI - Unification of Treatments and Interventions for Tinnitus Patients

Goal: UNITI’s overall aim is to deliver a predictive computational model based on existing and longitudinal data attempting to address the question which treatment approach is optimal for a specific patient based on specific parameters. Clinical, epidemiological, medical, genetic and audiological data, including signals reflecting ear-brain communication, will be analysed from existing databases. Predictive factors for different patient groups will be extracted and their prognostic relevance will be tested in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in which different groups of patients will undergo a combination of therapies targeting the auditory and central nervous systems.

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Project log

Jose A Lopez-Escamez
added a research item
Background: Tinnitus is a heterogeneous condition. The aim of this study as to compare the online and hospital responses to the Spanish version of European School for Interdisciplinary Tinnitus Research screening-questionnaire (ESIT-SQ) in tinnitus individuals by an unsupervised age clustering. Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed including 434 white Spanish patients with chronic tinnitus to assess the demographic and clinical profile through the ESIT-SQ, with 204 outpatients and 230 individuals from an online survey; a K-means clustering algorithm was used to classify both responses according to age. Results: Online survey showed a high proportion of Meniere's disease (MD) patients compared to both the general population and the outpatient cohort. The responses showed statistically significant differences between groups regarding education level, tinnitus-related hearing disorders (MD, hyperacusis), sleep difficulties, dyslipidemia, and other tinnitus characteristics, including duration, type of onset, the report of mitigating factors and the use of treatments. However, these differences were partially confirmed after adjusting for age. Conclusions: Self-reported tinnitus surveys are a low confidence source for tinnitus phenotyping. Additional clinical evaluation is needed for tinnitus research to reach the diagnosis. Age-based cluster analysis might help to better define clinical profiles and to compare responses in ESIT-SQ among subgroups of patients with tinnitus.
Christopher R. Cederroth
added 2 research items
Background: tinnitus is a heterogeneous condition associated with audiological and/or mental disorders. Chronic, severe tinnitus is reported in 1% of the population and it shows a relevant heritability, according to twins, adoptees and familial aggregation studies. The genetic contribution to severe tinnitus is unknown since large genomic studies include individuals with self-reported tinnitus and large heterogeneity in the phenotype. The aim of this study was to identify genes for severe tinnitus in patients with extreme phenotype. Methods: for this extreme phenotype study, we used three different cohorts with European ancestry (Spanish with Meniere disease (MD), Swedes tinnitus and European generalized epilepsy). In addition, four independent control datasets were also used for comparisons. Whole-exome sequencing was performed for the MD and epilepsy cohorts and whole-genome sequencing was carried out in Swedes with tinnitus. Findings: we found an enrichment of rare missense variants in 24 synaptic genes in a Spanish cohort, the most significant being PRUNE2, AKAP9, SORBS1, ITGAX, ANK2, KIF20B and TSC2 (p < 2E-04), when they were compared with reference datasets. This burden was replicated for ANK2 gene in a Swedish cohort with 97 tinnitus individuals, and in a subset of 34 Swedish patients with severe tinnitus for ANK2, AKAP9 and TSC2 genes (p < 2E-02). However, these associations were not significant in a third cohort of 701 generalized epilepsy individuals without tinnitus. Gene ontology (GO) and gene-set enrichment analyses revealed several pathways and biological processes involved in severe tinnitus, including membrane trafficking and cytoskeletal protein binding in neurons. Interpretation: a burden of rare variants in ANK2, AKAP9 and TSC2 is associated with severe tinnitus. ANK2, encodes a cytoskeleton scaffolding protein that coordinates the assembly of several proteins, drives axonal branching and influences connectivity in neurons.
Background Tinnitus represents a relatively common condition in the global population accompanied by various comorbidities and severe burden in many cases. Nevertheless, there is currently no general treatment or cure, presumable due to the heterogeneity of tinnitus with its wide variety of etiologies and tinnitus phenotypes. Hence, most treatment studies merely demonstrated improvement in a subgroup of tinnitus patients. The majority of studies are characterized by small sample sizes, unstandardized treatments and assessments or applications of intervention targeting only a single organ level. Combinatory treatment approaches, potentially targeting multiple systems as well as treatment personalization might provide remedy and enhance treatment responses. The aim of the present study is to systematically examine established tinnitus therapies both alone and in combination in a large sample of tinnitus patients. Further it wants to provide the basis for personalized treatment approaches by evaluating a specific decision support system developed as part of an EU-funded collaborative project (Unification of treatments and interventions for tinnitus patients; UNITI-project). Methods/ Study design This is a multi-center parallel-arm randomized clinical trial conducted at five different clinical sites over the EU. The effect of four different tinnitus therapy approaches (sound therapy, structured counselling, hearing aids, cognitive behavioral therapy) applied over a time period of 12 weeks as a single or rather a combinatory treatment in a total number of 500 chronic tinnitus patients will be investigated. Assessments and interventions are harmonized over the involved clinical sites. The primary outcome measure focuses on the domain tinnitus distress assessed via the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory. Discussion Results and conclusions from the current study might not only provide an essential contribution to combinatory and personalized treatment approaches in tinnitus but could also provide more profound insights in the heterogeneity of tinnitus, representing an important step towards a cure for tinnitus. Trial registration ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT04663828. Registered on 11. December 2020
Christopher R. Cederroth
added a research item
Tinnitus is the perception of a phantom sound and the patient's reaction to it. Although much progress has been made, tinnitus remains a scientific and clinical enigma of high prevalence and high economic burden, with an estimated prevalence of 10%–20% among the adult population. The EU is funding a new collaborative project entitled “Unification of Treatments and Interventions for Tinnitus Patients” (UNITI, grant no. 848261) under its Horizon 2020 framework. The main goal of the UNITI project is to set the ground for a predictive computational model based on existing and longitudinal data attempting to address the question of which treatment or combination of treatments is optimal for a specific patient group based on certain parameters. Clinical, epidemiological, genetic and audiological data, including signals reflecting ear-brain communication, as well as patients' medical history, will be analyzed making use of existing databases. Predictive factors for different patient groups will be extracted and their prognostic relevance validated through a Randomized Clinical Trial (RCT) in which different patient groups will undergo a combination of tinnitus therapies targeting both auditory and central nervous systems. From a scientific point of view, the UNITI project can be summarized into the following research goals: (1) Analysis of existing data: Results of existing clinical studies will be analyzed to identify subgroups of patients with specific treatment responses and to identify systematic differences between the patient groups at the participating clinical centers. (2) Genetic and blood biomarker analysis: High throughput Whole Exome Sequencing (WES) will be performed in well-characterized chronic tinnitus cases, together with Proximity Extension Assays (PEA) for the identification of blood biomarkers for tinnitus. (3) RCT: A total of 500 patients will be recruited at five clinical centers across Europe comparing single treatments against combinational treatments. The four main treatments are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), hearing aids, sound stimulation, and structured counseling. The consortium will also make use of e/m-health applications for the treatment and assessment of tinnitus. (4) Decision Support System: An innovative Decision Support System will be implemented, integrating all available parameters (epidemiological, clinical, audiometry, genetics, socioeconomic and medical history) to suggest specific examinations and the optimal intervention strategy based on the collected data. (5) Financial estimation analysis: A cost-effectiveness analysis for the respective interventions will be calculated to investigate the economic effects of the interventions based on quality-adjusted life years. In this paper, we will present the UNITI project, the scientific questions that it aims to address, the research consortium, and the organizational structure.
Christopher R. Cederroth
added a research item
Many individuals with tinnitus report experiencing hyperacusis (enhanced sensitivity to sounds). However, estimates of the association between hyperacusis and tinnitus is lacking. Here, we investigate this relationship in a Swedish study. A total of 3645 participants (1984 with tinnitus and 1661 without tinnitus) were enrolled via LifeGene, a study from the general Swedish population, aged 18-90 years, and provided information on socio-demographic characteristics, as well as presence of hyperacusis and its severity. Tinnitus presence and severity were self-reported or assessed using the Tinnitus Handicap Inventory (THI). Phenotypes of tinnitus with (n = 1388) or without (n = 1044) hyperacusis were also compared. Of 1661 participants without tinnitus, 1098 (66.1%) were women and 563 were men (33.9%), and the mean (SD) age was 45.1 (12.9). Of 1984 participants with tinnitus, 1034 (52.1%) were women and 950 (47.9%) were men, and the mean (SD) age was 47.7 (14.0) years. Hyperacusis was associated with any tinnitus [Odds ratio (OR) 3.51, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2.99-4.13], self-reported severe tinnitus (OR 7.43, 95% CI 5.06-10.9), and THI ≥ 58 (OR 12.1, 95% CI 7.06-20.6). The association with THI ≥ 58 was greater with increasing severity of hyperacusis, the ORs being 8.15 (95% CI 4.68-14.2) for moderate and 77.4 (95% CI 35.0-171.3) for severe hyperacusis. No difference between sexes was observed in the association between hyperacusis and tinnitus. The occurrence of hyperacusis in severe tinnitus is as high as 80%, showing a very tight relationship. Discriminating the pathophysiological mechanisms between the two conditions in cases of severe tinnitus will be challenging, and optimized study designs are necessary to better understand the mechanisms behind the strong relationship between hyperacusis and tinnitus.
Christopher R. Cederroth
added a project goal
UNITI’s overall aim is to deliver a predictive computational model based on existing and longitudinal data attempting to address the question which treatment approach is optimal for a specific patient based on specific parameters. Clinical, epidemiological, medical, genetic and audiological data, including signals reflecting ear-brain communication, will be analysed from existing databases. Predictive factors for different patient groups will be extracted and their prognostic relevance will be tested in a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in which different groups of patients will undergo a combination of therapies targeting the auditory and central nervous systems.