The Department has a variety of ongoing basic science research projects including gene discovery in acoustic neuroma, inner ear hair cell regeneration, molecular basis of vestibular efferent function, molecular genetics of hearing disorders, cell biology of otitis media, molecular characterization of laryngeal papillomas, and gene expression in the cochlear nuclei. The following are basic research projects currently being developed. Each includes a title, primary investigator, and a brief description.
Basic Research Projects
"Opioid Regulation of cAMP in the Vestibular Epithelia"
Paul Popper, PhD
During their lifetime a significant number of the US population will suffer a balance disorder of vestibular origin. Given the prevalence and the human and material cost associated with loss of balance control, it is important to understand the molecular organization of the vestibular system to develop novel strategies for the management of these disorders.
An incompletely understood aspect of the vestibular system is the role of the wealth of neuroactive substances in the vestibular epithelia. The focus of this project is to study signaling pathways of one class of neuromodulators in the vestibular periphery, opioid peptides. Namely to determine 1.) the effects of opioid receptor activation on cAMP (a molecule involved in opioid signaling) levels in the vestibular epithelia and 2.) the distribution of opioid receptors and cAMP synthesizing enzymes in the vestibular epithelia.
"Middle Ear Epithelial Response to Cytokine"
Joseph Kerschner, MD
The most common diagnosis in pediatric patients who visit physicians for illness in the United States is otitis media. This study investigates a more thorough understanding of this disease process. Cultured middle ear cells exposed to inflammatory cytokines are used to investigate 1) changes induced in mucoglycoprotein production; 2) changes induced in mucin gene expression; and 3) post-receptor signal transduction pathways related to cytokine stimulation.
"miRNA Regulation of Cholesteatoma Growth"
David Friedland MD, PhD
This study focuses on the molecular mechanisms responsible for the growth and proliferation of cholesteatoma, a lesion of the temporal bone that can cause hearing loss, infection, dizziness and facial paralysis. MicroRNAs are small highly conserved RNAs that regulate protein formation and can control important pathways in tumor formation. We are studying ways to alter microRNA expression in an attempt to develop a non-surgical means of treating or controlling cholesteatoma formation.
The hypothesis is that microRNAs are important in the growth and proliferation properties of cholesteatoma and are potential targets for pharmacological intervention for this disorder.
"Strial Presbycusis and Cardiovascular Disease"
David Friedland MD, PhD
This study focuses on the relationship between low-frequency age-related hearing loss and cardiovascular disease. We have identified a specific audiogram pattern that has a very high association with cardiovascular disorders such as stroke and heart attack. We are further examining the temporal relationship between changes in the audiogram and the development of cardiovascular diseases.
The hypothesis is that a low-frequency loss on the audiogram can predict impending cardiovascular disease and be used as a screen for patients at risk.